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A Study: Human Semen Quality Continues To Decline Globally

semen quality decline

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Rajat Yadav (name changed) 29, married in 2017. He is diagnosed with male infertility issue. His doctor tells him that stress and his smoking habits are the major reasons for his health complications. He also revealed to his doctor that physical intimacy was not sound with his wife Neena Yadav (name changed).

The World Health Organisation(WHO) study conducted upon more than 8500 couples noted that 51.2 per cent suffered from infertility. According to The World Health Report 1996, infertility is affecting 60-80 million couples every year around the globe. It has also affected a huge numbers of approximately 15-20 million couples in India with the prevalence rate around 23 per cent.

Scenario In India:

“Semen quality is definitely declining among men in India. In my day-to-day practice, I see a lot of cases where the problem of infertility in men is growing. There is a huge rise of such cases within a decade. I attend almost 30-40 patients of infertility in a day. The lifestyle like increased use of drugs, smoking, alcohol and unhealthy food is the common factor around the world,” Dr. Shweta Goswami, Sr. Consultant gynecologist and IVF Expert from Jaypee Hospital, Noida told TheHealth.

“Going for and artificial insemination or IVF is not the first solution to it. People need to change their habits first by eating right, including physical activity in daily routine, reducing stress, managing weight, avoiding exposure to toxins, quitting smoking and alcohol consumption,” said Dr Goswami adding that these days erratic timing of work and pressure of target completion is seen more among young professionals.

A meta-regression analysis, including Asia, was done in 2017 based on 185 studies of 42935 men who provided semen samples in 1973–2011. This comprehensive analysis reported a significant 50–60% decline in sperm counts among men as measured by Sperm Concentration (SC) and Total Sperm Count (TSC).

“Many a time we have seen these cases of working couples leading a sedentary lifestyle, mostly working on computers and laptops, on an ease to consume junk foods which further results in obesity, due to unhealthy food habits, also leads to male or female subfertility”, said Dr Anubha Singh, Gynecologist and IVF Expert from Shantah Fertility Centre, New Delhi.

Researches On Semen Quality:

A study published in March 2019 at Nottingham University found two common chemicals affecting the sperm quality of human and dog (dogs that live in the human household). These two environmental chemicals are diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153).

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent environmental pollutants. Diethylhexyl-phthalate (DEHP) is a substance that is mainly used as an additive in plastics to make them more flexible.

“Both DEHP and PCB153 are widely present in the environment and have been detected in tissues/fluids ranging from human breast milk to ovine liver. DEHP is a widely used plasticizer that leaches out into food and liquids and PCBs are lipophilic, and are therefore present in fatty foods,” doctors at Nottingham University stated in the report.

Global Scenario:

Sperm counts have been steadily decreasing over the past five decades with regional differences in the Western world. The reasons behind these trends are complex, but numerous insights indicate that environmental and lifestyle factors are important players.

A study done by Carlsen et al. (1992) on the decline of human sperm counts started a huge debate. Carlsen study stated, “There has been a genuine decline in semen quality over the past 50 years.” It created a controversy because there were limitations in studies.

Since 1992, there has been a number of studies on sperm quality and its decline. The recent study done by the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development, University of Geneva, Switzerland proved that there is a decline in sperm counts.

Swiss study states, “Comparing with the 5th percentile of the WHO reference values for fertile men, 17% of men had sperm concentration below 15 million/mL, 25% had less than 40% motile spermatozoa, and 43% had less than 4% normal forms”.

Study proves that reduced sperm count predicts increased all-cause mortality and morbidity. It is also associated with cryptorchidism, hypospadias and testicular cancer.

Lifestyle factors, diet, stress, smoking with multiple environmental influences, including endocrine disrupting chemicals causes decline in sperm count.

The signs and symptoms of male infertility caused by ‘sperm count decline’ may include:

  • Problems with sexual function
  • Swelling or a lump in the testicle area
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • Decreased facial or body hair
  • Having a lower sperm count
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