Not everyone believes we’re witnessing Spermageddon
If our collective sperm counts continue to decrease, won’t that mean the end of humans and the rise of a humanoid sex robot civilization? Well, maybe... but much of the evidence for a global sperm decline comes from sperm banks, where employees are finding that more modern-day “donations” aren’t as, uh, potent as those in the past.
“There have been studies by sperm banks looking at the average sperm counts of then and now, and they’ve noticed in some parts of the world, the sperm count of healthy donors has gotten lower than average,” says Dr. Philip Werthman, a urologist and director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal.
The declining sperm count thing is pretty controversial, though. While that first study in the early '90s sounded the semen alarm, it was followed by an analysis pointing out its flaws... THAT was followed by a study confirming the ORIGINAL study.
It's almost impossible to account for confounding variables; for example, sperm donors aren’t necessarily representative of the whole population. (It takes a special sort of person to jizz in a cup for money, after all.) Or maybe doctors simply know more about sperm now. “Some of it is just that we are performing more semen analyses... and seeing more of these issues,” Dr. Hernandez-Rey says.
Keep an eye on sperm
The doctors agreed that while it’s not time to freak out about declining sperm counts just yet, it’s definitely an issue to monitor. Dr. Werthman says one unexpected benefit this discussion is that it emphasizes male fertility.
"If people are having trouble getting pregnant, they need to pay attention to the male," Dr. Werthman points out. "People get treated on the woman's side, instead of addressing why there’s bad sperm and getting to the root of the problem." Placing responsibility for fertility solely in the hands of the woman, if you think about it, is pretty ridiculous to begin with.
Another plus: people do have a great deal of of power when it comes to halting the mass death of innocent sperm. “Many lifestyle factors that cause low sperm counts can be somewhat reversed if patients stop using drugs and smoking,” Dr. Hernandez-Rey says.
Just in case you needed another reason to quit.
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Missy Wilkinson wrote the word “sperm” so many times she thought she’d spelled it wrong, even when she hadn’t. Follow and/or heckle her on Twitter.