Infertility is on the rise – and it’s probably to do with declining sperm count
Exposure to chemicals in everyday plastics can lead to endocrine disruption impacting health and fertility
Infertility is on the rise. Current reports point to a trend of 1 in 6 couples having issues conceiving with a 5%-10% yearly increase in the use of reproductive technologies.
Over the last few years, a number of theories have tried to explain these trends, most of which focus on the increase of the average age when women are giving birth as well as an increase in the incidence of obesity, among other various factors specific to both men and women. However, recent research and findings show that total sperm count might be specifically to blame.
According to a recent statistical analysis combining results of multiple scientific studies (also known as a meta-analysis), between 1973 and 2011, the average total sperm count in men declined by 59.3%. There are limitations to these data, including the exclusion of non-English publications, dependence on sperm count vs sperm motility (the ability of sperm to move adequately through the female reproductive system to reach the egg), and any potential bias of patients willing to give semen samples.
However, the overall trend points downwards and if the data is to be believed, there seems to be no stopping of the continued downward curve of total sperm count. With these calculations and the current rate, it would mean the average sperm count would be zero in 2045. Though these are end-of-the-world-like scenarios, the decrease in total sperm count in the English-speaking world seems to be a true reality which raises questions as to the reasons why.
Some cited reasons that cause this decrease include:
- anatomical factors, including ejaculatory issues
- factors based on lifestyle, including use of recreational drugs, levels of emotional stress, and weight gain
- environmental factors, including exposure to heavy metal and radiation
- and, as championed by the author of the meta-analysis, Shanna Swan Ph.D., widespread exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in everyday plastics
Chemicals in plastics to blame?
Studies show that at least two chemicals used in the plastics industry, bisphenol A and phthalates, can imitate the impact of estrogen (the female hormone) when absorbed in the body, which even at low levels can lead to health problems.
A CDC study in the United States of America that looked at the urine of people participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed noticeable concentrations of both of these chemicals in nearly all participants.
Considering the number of plastics in a person’s everyday life – from food wrappings to cosmetics and toiletries – further and more extensive research is certainly needed on the effect of these chemicals on our reproductive and overall health so that changes to environmental exposure to them can be made.
How do I check my sperm count and motility?
It’s a simple procedure requiring a sperm sample provided at our facility. From this sample, we can tell you your sperm count and how motile your sperm are (ie. do they move). We can also check for any infections. Drop us an email or call us to book an appointment.