Causes & Treatment

Is there a male biological clock? Yes, and how to support it

Eloise Edington  |  21 Jul 2022

Words by Jessie Day

With so much focus on age-related female reproductive health concerns, it’s easy for the male biological clock, sperm health and other factors to gather dust. And while protecting egg health, advanced maternal age and female conception after age 40 are crucial pieces of the fertility puzzle, recent studies show that age does matter, for fathers-to-be. 

For many men, it’s a problem that goes unnoticed versus egg quality, sperm health doesn’t present as much of a problem. But the reality is that sperm counts are declining, with analysis published in the Human Reproduction Journal noting an overall concentration drop of 52% in western countries, working out at about 1.4% a year. 

Today, we’ll look at: 

  • the fertility timeframe men are working with
  • nutrients to preserve sperm health
  • sperm quantity, movement and morphology
  • toxins (read our toxins and fertility deep-dive once you’re done)
  • testicular health 
  • heat damage
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What is the biological clock for men?

Sperm health in general is a concern for fertility professionals, with quality declining from age 35-40. But is 40 really too old to have a baby, for a man? Research from Stanford University School of Medicine, California, shows babies born to dads over age 35 are more likely to have lower birth weight and special requirements, from a stay in the NICU to at-birth ventilation. The study also highlights a connection between paternal age and likelihood for the mother to develop gestational diabetes. 

Science aside and putting the focus on men, biological clock concerns – are they a real thing? Globally, clinics are seeing a sharp rise in sperm freezing demand, especially from men aged 26 and above who are concerned by the stats, but not ready or able to start a family. And around 20 million men in the US have health insurance which covers them for sperm storage services with leading fertility startup Legacy.

We say, age is a factor in the fertility equation, but there’s so much you can do to give yourself the best foundations for having a healthy baby. Here are our top five tactics to boost sperm health and male fertility, whatever clock you’re on. 

1 Focus on nutrients 

Diet and nutrition are a huge part of the protocol for improving sperm quality. With age comes damage, and micro nutrients like folate, zinc and vitamins C and E are key players in protecting normal cell division. They’re also crucial for reducing oxidative stress and building new sperm. Selenium is particularly important for men looking to invest in their sperm health. It helps with production, and protecting against DNA damage. 

2 Think: sperm quantity, movement and morphology

If you’re looking into sperm health, and speaking to a fertility doctor, make these three part of your conversation. Higher sperm counts increase conception chances, rate of movement (or ‘motility’) is crucial for reaching and fertilizing the egg, and morphology is all about structure – well-shaped sperm have a better overall success rate. 

3 Cut the toxins

This might be an obvious point, especially if you’re going through real fertility struggles. But for younger men looking to future-proof their sperm health, it’s worth cutting right back on alcohol, quitting smoking, and watching your exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides, if they’re part of your work or everyday life. 

Illegal drugs are no-go, and performance enhancers need to be discussed with your doctor. 

4 Talk about testicular health 

On a more physiological level, it’s really important to speak to your doctor about testicular health, and any other medical issues they feel could be working against your male biological clock. 

Prescribed medications will need to be carefully managed too, as part of your sperm and male fertility-biological clock picture, from steroids to antidepressants, and treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy will be a crucial discussion point. 

5 Stay cool, and loose

Research shows that increased scrotal temperature puts male fertility at risk, so keep laptops on the table, not your lap, and avoid overheating that area of your body. We’ve all read the headlines on tight-fitting underwear and there are no absolutes, but encouraging blood-flow to your testicles and avoiding constriction is a sensible tactic. 

Globally, the mens’ biological clock question is being asked more frequently, and much louder. Men are having babies later too, by choice and necessity. Aging is natural, but there are lots of tactics you can deploy now, to invest in your future fertility. 

Did you catch our male fertility Q&A? Hop to it, and finish off with our Insta live chat with Dr Smikle, Medical Director at boutique clinic Laurel Fertility Care, in California.

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