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Family Matters

Men's Sperm Count Is Down by 50 Percent

Yep, you read that right

You might want to sit down for this one: A new report by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology and published in the University of Oxford's Human Reproduction Update journal reveals that sperm count among men in Western countries—including North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe—have dropped more than 50 percent in less than 40 years.

Whoa, what?!

Many say lifestyle and environmental factors are playing a role in the decline. Dr. Maria Cecillia Asnis, MD, with Stamford Heath Medical Group gave Fisher-Price a few examples, like how there are more phytoestrogens in our diets—aka soy and soybeans, which can affect men's hormonal balance because of the estrogen in them. (And now you know why some people associate tofu with man boobs!) "Obesity, diabetes, and sleep apnea can lower testosterone as well," Dr. Asnis says. “The other thing that may be underreported is the use of performance-enhancing substances, particularly in young men.” Meanwhile, excessive use of alcohol, marijuana, and smoking cigarettes can all contribute to lower sperm counts as well. 

Men can easily take charge of the problem and make necessary changes almost immediately—since so much of this decline due to lifestyle choices, says Dr. Asnis. She stresses that losing weight, eating well, and exercising is key. Researchers at Ambroise Paré University Hospital in Paris found that among obese men, 32.4 percent had a low sperm count and 6.9 percent had no viable sperm.

And regardless of a man's weight, reducing stress is a must-do for better sperm counts. Whether it's a tough commute, rough job, or other burden, men need to seek out ways to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with them. And put down the devices or keep 'em out of your front pockets; while many people used to worry about the heat from a laptop being too close to the scrotum, research also suggests that the wi-fi from laptops, tablets, and smartphones may damage sperm or impair production.

Last word of advice: If you're already TTC, Dr. Asnis recommends men and women get a full evaluation if they’re having trouble conceiving. When it comes to sperm count, the normal range of sperm per millimeter is 40 million to 300 million. Counts of 20 million or more can be considered okay, but counts below 10 million are a cause for concern.