It has been widely publicised that western birth rates are falling. In 2020, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published a study that revealed an alarming drop in the fertility rate (the number of children born to each woman), which has nearly halved from 4.7 in 1950 to 2.4 in 2017. The study also predicted that this number would fall below 1.7 in 2100.

There are a number of reasons why birth rates have declined so dramatically over the last 70 years. In the fifties, there was an urge to rebuild the population following two world wars; women often married younger and had children sooner in their lives; a rise in consumerism meant more home comforts were cheaper and more accessible; and the suburban boom created many homes with three or four bedrooms, which were ideal for nuclear families. Conversely, nowadays, the societal pressure to procreate is not as great; many countries suffer from a lack of affordable housing, high cost of living and a tough job market; and today’s young adult generation are accustomed to the autonomy, spontaneity and ability to travel that was not so common in the fifties.

However, there could also be a fertility-related reason for this decrease in birth rates. A 2017 assessment – one of the largest of its kind – showed that sperm concentration (the number of sperm cells in semen) has decreased by 52.4% from 1973 to 2011, and the total sperm count of men living in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand has declined by 59.3%. In this blog post, we explain why, and look at what could be the solution.

The Threats To Male Fertility

In today’s world there are many elements that contribute not only to poor health, but also to decreased fertility levels among men. These include:

Harmful chemicals
Chemicals exist in our environment, in what we eat, and in the products we use. While not all chemicals are harmful, there are some chemicals used in our everyday lives that, with prolonged use, may contribute to long term health and fertility issues.

Bisphenol A (BPA), for example, is a strong plastic which has many uses, from preserving foods to strengthening dental sealants. Several studies have found that mice, when exposed to BPA as embryos, showed impacted reproductive organs, testosterone levels and sperm count and motility. Due to its prevalence in consumer goods, levels of BPA in urine have been found to be above safety thresholds in 90% of individuals tested in multiple population studies.

Rising obesity and lack of exercise
Obesity is a rising health issue in the UK. The NHS found that the number of overweight and obese adults has increased from 53% in 1993 to 64% 2019. For men, this poses a risk of hypogonadism, which is where the testes are unable to function properly leading to reduced or no sex hormones.

Meanwhile, a lack of exercise has been shown to be detrimental to sperm count. A Harvard study calculated that men who exercised for 15 hours or more of moderate to vigorous exercise per week had a sperm count 73% higher than those in the sample who were least active.

A little bit of stress is imperative for humans to function properly; however, severe or prolonged stress can increase cortisol levels, inhibiting the production of testosterone and consequently affecting fertility. Researchers found that men who had undergone two or more particularly stressful events over the period of a year suffered lower sperm quality than men who did not undergo stressful events. Additionally, stress is a common cause of erectile dysfunction and it can play havoc with energy levels, self esteem and even cause stomach issues, all of which can reduce sexual appetite.

While sexually transmitted infections have been around for centuries, UK data shows a rise in STI diagnoses in recent years, with the most common being chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts and genital herpes. It is well known that chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in both men and women, but genital warts and herpes are more complicated. While they may not directly cause infertility, both STIs may put a foetus at risk of miscarriage if the mother is infected.

How To Naturally Boost Male Fertility

It may be possible to boost your fertility levels naturally by making healthy and positive lifestyle choices. You should start your journey to better reproductive health by avoiding the above threats, where possible, in addition to:

  • Eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding certain medications, such as anabolic steroids, or switching to an alternative
  • Limiting exposure of the scrotum to warm temperatures by wearing loose underwear, restricting sauna usage and using cooler water in the shower or bath

Preserving Your Sperm For Future Reproduction

If you are worried about what the future might hold for your reproductive quality, you may want to consider sperm freezing. This is a very successful method of fertility preservation, and the sperm can be used if you want to become a father in future, or if you want to donate sperm for use in someone else’s treatment.

Although you will have to undergo testing for STIs and other infectious diseases, as well as provide written consent for your sperm to be frozen, the process is non-invasive and relatively quick. Additionally, fertility treatment using frozen sperm is just as effective as fresh sperm, so your chances of becoming a father in the future should be no less than what they are now.

If you would like to talk to someone about sperm freezing to preserve your fertility, book a consultation online with The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy today, or speak to one of our friendly team members to discuss your requirements on 020 7224 1880.

Further Reading