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How Male Fertility Changes with Age
Updated on January 31, 2024
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At Home Health
How Male Fertility Changes with Age

It’s pretty common knowledge that as a man ages, his fertility declines. When people talk about “fighting the biological clock,” they refer to the race against time and circumventing any increased risk of birth defects or congenital disorders.

How Male Fertility Changes with Age 2

Despite much of the focus being on female infertility as women age, male age is just as important to consider when trying to conceive. Age can affect fertility since, reproductively speaking, the body is no longer at its prime after a certain age.

While male fertility also hinges on several other variables (such as lifestyle,) age is still a big factor that can determine the possibility of pregnancy or potential birth complications.

“According to a study by Mann and Patel, there is declining male fertility worldwide. This is due to poor diet, obesity, and the presence of endocrine disruptors,” says our in-house medical expert Dr. Rizza Mira on the factors surrounding male fertility aside from age.

How Does Age Affect Male Fertility?

When it comes to male fertility, men have better chances of conceiving a child in their 20s to 30s—given good health, of course.

When men age past their 30s, their sperm quality and testosterone production aren’t as strong, leading to lower chances of pregnancy. In fact, most men become exponentially more infertile after 39.1

Sperm production isn’t as efficient as it used to be, so sperm quality declines exponentially. 

“On an estimate, there is a 3% decline in sperm quality per year of age,” says Dr. Mira.

Like any other organ or bodily process, wear and tear as you age affects your reproductive system. It’s natural for the body to slow down and not perform as optimally as it used to.

Male infertility isn’t just accelerated with advanced paternal age, but it is a big factor that you should consider if you want children now or in the future. 

What is Male Infertility?

Male infertility is clinically defined as the inability of a male partner to impregnate his female partner after at least one year of having unprotected intercourse.3 When a man’s sperm quality or testosterone production is no longer at its prime, it can affect pregnancy rates and make a man infertile.

This can be due to many variables, whether it’s a man’s lifestyle, medications, illness, or simply age. A number of causes can impact sexual function, and they’re not always external.

Male infertility isn’t always readily apparent or diagnosed. It’s something that many doctors only conclude when a man is actively trying to conceive and they’ve eliminated any other possibilities, such as female infertility.

A man can be infertile all his life and never know unless he is dedicated to observing his sexual behavior and taking note of how long he and a female partner go without conceiving.

What Causes Male Infertility?

While a man’s age is a big determinant of pregnancy, as sperm quality can decline over the years, it’s not the only reason. 

Age related infertility isn’t the only kind your body may go through. Decreased fertility can be caused by a host of factors, such as:2

  • Poor lifestyle
  • Genetics or birth defects
  • Injury, trauma, or accidents that affect your reproductive organs
  • Medical conditions
  • Some medication
  • Other conditions or disorders

Without lifestyle changes (or fertility treatments for more serious cases), your vices or even your biological clock can catch up to you much faster.

Healthy sperm can still be maintained even after reaching certain age groups. If you keep yourself relatively healthy, avoid any accidents or trauma to your reproductive system, and steer clear of any vices, you can definitely still be fertile well past an average male’s reproductive peak.

Signs of Age-Related Male Fertility Decline

While you may not always be on the lookout for male infertility, there are some signs you can look out for and tests you can conduct to be sure as you grow older.

For example, if you’re getting a semen analysis, it may give you more insight into your sperm health, which can give you a heads-up on potential or imminent infertility.

A semen analysis will tell you the following:

  • Sperm motility
  • Sperm quality
  • Sperm concentration
  • Sperm count
  • Sperm morphology

Low quality sperm, or sperm from someone suffering from male infertility, may have poor sperm motility or even abnormal sperm morphology—among other things.

Men in older age groups may find that looking into their sperm health regularly can be beneficial in determining potential infertility. Even men younger than or in their 30s may find sperm analyses helpful early on.

“Aside from declining sperm quality, increasing cases of erectile dysfunction happen as men age,” says Dr. Mira.

Other than that, you may also observe:4

  • Performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction, difficulty ejaculating, lowered libido, or even decreased semen volume
  • Pain in the genital area
  • Abnormal breast growth
  • Slowed or even no facial or body hair growth (signs of hormonal abnormalities)

Can I Still Have Kids Even When I’m Older?

Yes it’s possible to still have kids even when you’re older. Despite increasing paternal age and more wear and tear on your reproductive system, the rate at which your fertility declines differs from man to man.

While it’s still for the best to listen to your doctor and fertility specialists on the optimal time to conceive, there is still the potential of good quality, healthy sperm still fertilizing an egg even if you’re past your 30s.

However, if you want to be very sure and are intent on conceiving when you’re worried about your sperm production and overall fertility, you have different medical options to impregnate your partner:

  • Intrauterine artificial insemination
  • In vitro fertilization 
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection

If you and your partner are still unsure about wanting children presently, you can also consider egg freezing and storing your sperm in a sperm bank in case you make a choice to have children in the future.

It’s proven that you can produce a healthy baby even with these options–and they’re more likely to work with medical intervention, given that most methods introduce the sperm and egg to each other directly, circumventing the entire ejaculation process during intercourse.

How Can I Preserve My Fertility?

To make sure you’re fertile and ready to conceive a healthy, happy baby when you’re ready, you have to stay on top of your health and ensure that you’re free of any complications.

By leading a healthy lifestyle, getting check-ups now and then to ensure you’re in tip-top shape, and avoiding vices and toxic environmental factors, you can stretch your fertility window.

Making sure you get regular semen analyses and blood tests is key to preserving fertility.

If you’re already having fertility issues, look into fertility treatments or reproductive medicine to help you get back on track and to assist you with conception.

Even if you aren’t having fertility problems, make sure you’re in your best shape so you can avoid passing on any:

  • Increased risk of congenital disorders like autism spectrum disorder
  • Genetic abnormalities (physical and mental)
  • Birth defects

Lastly, you can also turn to sperm preservation in order to keep your healthy sperm ready for when you decide you’re ready for children.

Male Fertility vs. Female Fertility

Fertility issues affect men and women almost equally. One-third of infertility issues are attributed to male infertility, another third to female infertility, and the last third is to either unknown issues or problems with both.

However, compared to female infertility, which is more drastic as they age, male infertility is a little more gradual.

Considering both male age and female age when trying to conceive is important. A woman’s biological clock moves differently from a man’s.

It’s important to acknowledge that there’s historically been (and still is) more pressure on women to get pregnant or risk never having children when they get older. Because of this, the issue of infertility is usually a burden that biological women carry more than their male counterparts despite it being an issue that affects men and women pretty equally. 

“The work-up of infertility generally involves tests for both man and woman,” says Dr. Mira.

Female infertility can be caused by a plethora of problems in several different parts of the reproductive system, making it a little more complex to pinpoint the problem compared to men. With male infertility, the problem is usually in semen abnormality. Very few cases are due to anatomic abnormalities.

In women, it can be caused by a variety of problems in the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the uterus, the endocrine system, and many others.6 

Male infertility and female infertility are diagnosed differently.7 

Female infertility

Doctors will try to diagnose female infertility by conducting the following tests (among others if necessary):

  • Blood test
  • Pelvic examination
  • Transvaginal ultrasound
  • Hysterosalpingogram
  • Laparoscopy
  • Hysteroscopy

Male infertility

Doctors will try to diagnose male infertility by conducting the following tests (among others if necessary):

  • Semen analysis
  • Blood test

There’s also the possibility of secondary infertility, when you or your partner have a difficult time conceiving after a previous successful pregnancy.

Updated on January 31, 2024
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Updated on January 31, 2024
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Content Contributor
Angela is a full-time digital content manager and editor for Know Your DNA. She also contributes freelance articles to several local and international websites when she has the time. She's always been a voracious believer in finding the truth and ensuring the science is sound.
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