Pop quiz: how many months out of the year focus on raising awareness about women’s fertility issues? Not one. Not two. A whopping five months shine a big ol’ spotlight on women’s fertility. It’s par for the course, really. When it comes to discussions of fertility, women are always the focus. But a full 40% of infertility issues can be traced to the male partner, and sperm is, after all, 50% of the equation. Time and time again, men are an afterthought in the fertility conversation, and it’s setting couples up to fail. In light of recent research confirming–again–that sperm counts around the world are indeed declining, Beli wants to lead the charge. Join us, and let’s make March men’s fertility awareness month.
What Happens When We Overlook Sperm Quality?
For decades, researchers have been sounding the horn over declining sperm count, and sperm quality is a major concern as well. An eye-popping 2012 study (discussed in depth a few paragraphs below) concluded that just one man in four had what’s considered optimal sperm quality. That’s concerning on several levels.
First, sperm quality is often a reflection of a man’s overall health. Second, the preconception health of moms and dads-to-be has a direct influence on a healthy conception, pregnancy, and baby, including brain development and birth weight. Remember, sperm carries the DNA blueprint for the placenta, a critical organ that nourishes a growing baby throughout pregnancy. Low-quality or straight-up damaged DNA can have a significant effect on the viability of a pregnancy and the health of a growing baby. In fact, studies have linked sperm with high levels of DNA damage to recurrent miscarriage.
Theories for this decline in both sperm count and quality abound, and many experts are pointing to potential causes like poor lifestyle choices and environmental toxins. And yet, women continue to bear the burden when it comes to fertility issues.
The Problem with Overlooking the Importance of Sperm Health
For men, fertility health largely boils down to sperm health, which is measured with a few specific parameters:
- Sperm count. Normal semen has between 40 million to 300 million sperm per milliliter. A low sperm count, also known as oligospermia, is anything between 10 and 20 million sperm per milliliter. Low sperm count can be triggered by previous medical problems, age, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices.
- Sperm morphology. Normal sperm are tadpole-esque, with egg-shaped heads and long tails. The more normal-shaped sperm, the easier it is for them to make the journey to the egg.
- Sperm motility. Motility is measured by the percentage of moving sperm cells in a semen sample, with healthy sperm motility defined as forward progressions of at least 25 micrometers per second. Sperm motility issues are varied and can include slow or sluggish progressive motility, non-progressive motility, and no mobility.
- Testosterone levels and hormonal balance. The hormonal balance in a man’s body determines the success of his reproductive system. An imbalance, particularly in testosterone or gonadotropins, can trigger male infertility.
Now, if you’re like most people, you had little to no idea that sperm health is measured like this. But the real zinger is that the right nutrients, including but not limited to vitamins D, C, E, and CoQ10, during the three-part sperm maturation process support all of these sperm health parameters. Specifically, sufficient amounts of these nutrients during this timeframe are directly linked to improved sperm quality and a reduced risk of low sperm count and concentration, DNA fragmentation, and poor motility and morphology.
It’s not a secret, but it certainly doesn’t get the same level of attention as the countless “tips and tricks” for supporting women’s fertility. And that’s truly a shame. Men can and should be encouraged to take an active role in bettering their fertility health–particularly in light of growing evidence that sperm counts worldwide are dropping.
About that Declining Sperm Count Business
Let’s talk about these studies. In 1992, researchers showed a global decline in sperm count for the prior sixty years. In 2017, the same team published a review confirming a decline between 50% and 60% in sperm concentration from 1973 to 2011 in America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. In late 2022, researchers published an updated review with additional data from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America–a total of 53 countries. The findings are bleak:
- Globally, average sperm counts fell more than 62% between 1973 and 2018
- Declines appear to be accelerating, dropping an average of 1.16% per year after 1973 to 2.64% after 2020
The data raises a red flag for men’s health in general, which, again, is closely tied to male fertility. Low sperm counts are associated with an increased risk of serious health conditions, including testicular cancer, chronic disease, and a decreased lifespan.
Prioritizing Male Fertility
Of course, data and statistics are one thing. The people they represent are another. And clearly, positioning infertility as an inherently female issue is shortsighted. Not only does it put the burden unfairly on women, it teaches men that their fertility is something that should be reacted to instead of proactively managed as an important part of their health as a whole. The fact is, producing healthy sperm is predicated on the body having sufficient amounts of all of the necessary raw materials.
Like anything, knowledge is power. Here at Beli, we’ve been committed to raising awareness about the value of preconception health since we launched our men’s prenatal vitamin in 2019. Taking steps to prioritize one’s health three to six months before a target conception date plays a big role in everything to come. A man’s health, and therefore, his sperm health, has a direct effect on a successful conception, his partner’s pregnancy, the health of their baby, and even the health of the next generation. It’s an eye-opening realization, and we want to open more people’s eyes to the truth. What better way to continue these efforts than with an entire month dedicated to men’s fertility health?
Here’s the bottom line–to promote widespread understanding of the importance of men's fertility health, men need greater access to support and resources to make informed and healthy choices. And as studies continue to confirm bleak statistics about declining sperm count, the value of this information is clear.But let’s end things here on a positive note. Every day, we see people who are actively taking steps to proactively manage their fertility health–women and men alike. More people are looking to products like Beli to support and promote sperm health, and it’s part of a larger effort to control what they can in their pursuit of parenthood. In the face of worrisome news about male fertility, that’s something we can all find reassuring. Join us in taking things one step further, by making March men’s fertility awareness month. Honestly, the guys deserve it!