A Worldwide Phenomenon—Male Fertility and Testosterone Declining Rapidly

The world’s population growth has been slowing for decades. Worries have increased as the overall birth rate began to slow at a greater rate than expected. 

One reason is that people in developed nations are choosing to have fewer children, but there’s a more worrisome reason—male fertility worldwide is suffering a serious decline. 

A woman sits with her head on a man's shoulder as they look at the water. There is a decline in male fertility that may complicate their relationship in the future.

The Male Fertility Decline: It’s a Fact

According to an analysis of the findings from dozens of scientific studies published in Human Reproduction Update, sperm counts fell by more than 51 percent between 1973 and 2018.

Again, what is concerning is that the rate of decline has accelerated. Data shows that since 2000, the number of sperm per milliliter of male semen declined 2.64 percent each year—double the rate of decline observed between 1978 and 1999. 

In considering the reason for the surprising acceleration of sperm production decline, the authors mentioned the following:

“Sperm count may sensitively reflect the impacts of the modern environment on male health throughout the life course.”

Learn more about the study here.

Worldwide Decline in Male Fertility—Specific Causes

It’s difficult to say for sure what is causing this decline in male fertility. Specific reasons cannot be specifically identified by the same study and must rely on further research.

However, a particular environmental factor proven to damage both male fertility and testosterone production (shown often to mirror sperm production) is the ingestion of harmful chemicals from food packaging and thousands of other everyday household items. 

Bisphenol A (BPA), a compound commonly added to food and beverage packaging, is one such endocrine-disrupting chemical with a known link to reproductive health issues and birth defects

Parabens, a class of preservatives widely used for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties, are another. Paraben compounds, which are often found in pesticides and plastics, have a known connection to developmental, neurological, and immune-system side effects, and have been under investigation for a considerable time.

These harmful chemicals that can damage both male fertility and testosterone production are found in:

  • Shampoos
  • Commercial moisturizers
  • Shaving gels
  • Makeup
  • Toothpaste
  • Moisturizers
  • Lotions
  • Lubricants
  • Shampoos
  • Detergents
  • Sunscreen

According to a Danish study on the topic of petroleum-derived chemicals that can harm male health:

“(It’s) well established that these chemicals have become part of our tissues and fluids. We know that they can be a threat to wildlife. Unfortunately, too little has been done to uncover their role in humans.”

A 2017 research project published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine evaluated the suspected relationship between the everyday environmental exposure to parabens and semen quality parameters, sperm chromatin structure, and the level of reproductive hormones in men, such as:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol

The results showed that urinary paraben concentrations were connected to an increased percentage of sperm with abnormal morphology, a greater percentage of sperm with high DNA stainability, a decrease in the percentage of motility, and lower testosterone levels overall.

While scientists cannot be sure yet exactly what amount of parabens might be harmful or exactly how they cause these conditions within the male body, it’s best to take precautions. Awareness and common sense (in addition to a proper diet and exercise) help men bolster their hormonal health.

For those experiencing chronic low testosterone, Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) can be effective in restoring optimal hormonal balance and an improved sense of wellbeing, regardless of the cause. Read our comprehensive guide on Testosterone Replacement Therapy for the answers to the most common questions.

Read the Guide

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(Augie) Juan Augustine Galindo Jr. MPAS, PA-C

(Augie) Juan Augustine Galindo Jr. MPAS, PA-C started his career in healthcare as a fireman/paramedic in West Texas where he served on the Midland Fire Department from 1998-2004.   He became interested in testosterone treatment after seeing how hormone replacement doctors helped those suffering from low testosterone.   After graduating from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Physician Assistant Program, he moved to DFW where he currently lives with his wife and three children.

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