Is male sperm in trouble? At first glance the statistics certainly seem alarming – sperm counts among men in the west have dropped by more than 50% in the past 40 years, and are currently declining at an average of 1.4% every year.  Could we be facing the twilight of the swimmers?
Well, not quite. Several experts have been quick to dismiss the more apocalyptic visions of a future spent fighting for the planet’s last remaining supplies of male virility. Instead, according to Professor Richard Sharpe of Edinburgh University, the problem is likely to be felt by men at a more individual level by increasing their chances of infertility.  Certainly not world-ending stuff, but far from ideal nonetheless. Here, The Wellman Clinic takes a look at some of the possible factors behind the drop in male sperm quality, and what can be done about it.
Sorting fact from fiction
One common theory often floated as fact is the damaging effect of chemicals found in everything from plastics to sunscreen. However, Paul Serhal, the Medical Director of the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health, has insisted that studies linking such chemicals to male infertility are far from conclusive, and that they are unlikely to be the root cause of a lacklustre sperm count.  While a link isn’t out of the question, to forgo sunscreen on holiday is more likely to impart a shiny, peeling red face than a virile undercarriage.
Another myth highlighted by Serhal is the damage done to the rising number of men who’ve donned some lycra and hopped onto their bike in search of a new fitness regime. While prolonged periods of constriction and pressure to the nether-regions should probably be avoided, modern bikes are designed to be a little less punishing on delicate areas – in fact a study by University College London found no link between cycling and infertility, compared to numerous health benefits. 
So, what is affecting sperm?
One area in which the facts seem clearer is the damage that heat can do. As anyone who has ever taken a knock to that area can testify, there must be a damn good reason for the testicles being situated outside of the body. In fact, it’s due to the optimum temperature for sperm production being lower than the normal internal human body temperature, with periods of extreme heat causing significant damage. A 2007 study by the University of California found that five out of 11 men with fertility problems saw their sperm count rocket up by nearly 500% simply by staying away from hot baths for several months.
Also, keeping your sperm stored away for a rainy day is also not the fertility booster some seem to think. Despite what the song may have taught us, the ‘sacred sperm’ causes sperm to lose its ability to make its way to a fertile female egg. 
How can you increase your sperm quality?
Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can keep your sperm swimming – including laying off fatty, unhealthy foods in favour of a diet of carbohydrates, fibre, fruit and vegetables. 
We’ve written before about the numerous health benefits of vitamin d – and a healthy sperm count is among them, with a 2015 study finding a link between low serum levels of vitamin d in men and lower pregnancy rates. 
A generally healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of keeping most health concerns at bay, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it plays a part in keeping our sperm count up. The drop in male sperm quality may not be the sign of impending apocalypse, but it’s still important to look after our swimmers.
The Wellman Clinic is the UK’s first dedicated private men’s health clinic in London, with over 25 years of experience. From health screening to testosterone replacement therapy, we offer tailored, professional medical advice to men in a friendly and confidential environment. Please get in touch to arrange a consultation.