The season for semen

By Efrosini Costa

It seems that even for sperm, there is a season, with the colder months coming up trumps for those trying to conceive, according to the latest research.

Trying for a baby?

Well now would be the best time to give it a go, according to the new research.

Israeli scientists studying sperm samples from more than 6,000 men who were being treated for infertility, uncovered that even for sperm, changes can be seasonal.

During the colder months of the year, sperm increases in both quality and quantity –greater numbers, faster swimming speeds and fewer abnormalities – with semen reaching its healthiest peak during winter.

From spring onwards and into the warmest months, sperm was found to steadily decline in quality.

The researchers believe this could explain why autumn is a time of the year most associated with a spike in births.

“The winter and spring semen patterns are compatible with increased fecundability and may be a plausible explanation of the peak number of deliveries during the fall,” said Eliahu Levitas, the study’s lead researcher from the Ben-Gurion University.

While the researchers are still stumped as to the exact cause of the seasonal health trend, they believe it may have something to do with the warmer temperatures affecting the sperm.

Previous studies that looked at sperm production in animals have also linked factors such as temperature, daylight exposure and hormones to seasonal changes in sperm production.

Published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, the researchers believe that the discovery could “be of paramount importance, especially in couples with male-related infertility struggling with unsuccessful and prolonged fertility treatments.”

The study comes just after recent figures show that 20 per cent of couples spend more than a year trying to conceive, on average.

While autumn did show an increase in sperm’s health, it takes approximately 70 days for a sperm cell to be produced. Men with healthy sperm counts were most likely to reach optimum sperm health by the winter months.

However, the pattern didn’t hold true for those men with abnormal sperm production. They were found to have better motility (the ability for sperm to move towards the egg) during change of season in both autumn and spring.

“Based on our results the (normal) semen will perform better in winter, whereas infertility cases related to low sperm counts should be encouraged to choose spring and fall,” the researchers concluded.

But this doesn’t mean you should stop trying to have a baby in the warmer months or wait until winter to start trying, says Edmund Sabanegh, chairman of the urology department at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic. He believes couples hoping to conceive should keep trying no matter what time of the year:

“We would continue to encourage them to try regardless of the season, and they may benefit from interventions or treatments.”

Previous studies have found world sperm counts are falling in humans. While the reasons for this are still unclear, a more sedentary lifestyle, man-made chemicals, diet and the environment have been suggested as possible factors for this trend.

The obesity epidemic and delayed motherhood – with more mothers over 30 than ever before – have also been linked to a rise in infertility.


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