Have Red Pill Men Forgotten Sperm Quality Also Declines After 35?

Red pill men are so obsessed with women's eggs and fertility but want you to forget that sperm counts have decreased more than 50% since the 1970s.

By Olivia Flint4 min read

One watch or listen to the Whatever podcast, and you’re sure to hear a myriad of men talking about women’s fertility declining after 35. These kinds of toxic, red pill conversations aren’t necessarily incorrect – a woman’s ability to conceive naturally does become more difficult in her 30s. However, what these men fail to recognize is that a man’s fertility also declines in his 30s. 

Plus, research shows that a man’s fertility counts for 50% of infertility cases in heterosexual couples. Even if a 40-year-old man were to settle down with a younger woman – just like the red pill community tells men to do – his age and older sperm may cause infertility issues for the couple, whatever the age of the woman.

Why Sperm Quality Declines After 35

Although it’s commonly believed that men retain their fertility into their 60s, this isn’t what studies show. In fact, sperm quality begins to decline in men as young as 35. Despite commonly held beliefs, a typical 45-year-old man is significantly less fertile than a man 10 years younger.

For example, in a survey of 1,976 women, researchers reported that the average time to pregnancy for men aged 45 years and older was five times greater than the average time to pregnancy for men under age 25. Another study showed men over 35 had pregnancy rates of 25%, in comparison to men under 35 years who had pregnancy rates of 52%. 

Oxidative Damage

Oxidative damage is one of the reasons for a decrease in sperm quality. A sperm’s job is to deliver DNA to the egg. It has a long journey to the egg, during which it can incur damage. Although it has a protective layer, it is still relatively vulnerable to damage. One of the most common types of damage incurred is DNA fragmentation, which can be caused by oxidation. A common cause of oxidation is age, but lifestyle factors and medical issues also play a role. The oxidative damage in sperm is thought to be a contributing factor in up to 80% of all cases of male infertility

Many studies have found that sperm with a high level of oxidative damage is less likely to fertilize an egg. Not only that, but even if fertilization does occur, the pregnancy is more likely to end in miscarriage.

Decreased Sperm Motility

Motility is a sperm’s ability to move and swim toward the egg. This is something that decreases with a man’s age. Motility is developed as the sperm travels through the prostate and the epididymis. As a man ages, these glands begin to decline in function, which is why a man’s sperm may also decrease in motility. In fact, one study of healthy, non-smoking men demonstrated that motility decreased 0.8% per year.

Decreased Sperm Morphology

Morphology is the size and shape of sperm, and it’s important because sperm need to be a certain shape to penetrate the outer layers of the egg. Studies show that normal sperm morphology declines from 0.2-0.9% per year. Over a 20-year period, that’s a 4-18% decrease in normal morphology. 

Sperm Quality Is on a Steep Decline

Dr. Shanna Swan is a leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologist. In her research, she has documented how average sperm counts among Western men have more than halved in the past 40 years. She believes this is partly due to toxins in our environment.

Phthalates and BPAs

In an interview with The Guardian, Dr. Swan said, “Phthalates, used to make plastic soft and flexible, are of paramount concern. They are in everybody, and we are probably primarily exposed through food as we use soft plastic in food manufacture, processing, and packaging. They lower testosterone and so have the strongest influences on the male side, for example, diminishing sperm count, though they are bad for women, too, shown to decrease libido and increase risk of early puberty, premature ovarian failure, miscarriage, and premature birth.”

Alongside phthalates, BPAs are also a concern. “Men occupationally exposed to BPA have shown decreased sperm quality, reduced libido, and higher rates of erectile dysfunction. Other chemicals of concern include flame retardants and certain pesticides such as atrazine,” Dr. Swan said.

Lower Sperm Count

As part of her research, Dr. Swan measured AGD (anogenital distance) in males and females, as shorter AGD in males and longer AGD in females indicate less reproductive success. The anogenital distance is the distance from the midpoint of the anus to the genitalia. It had already been shown in rodents that mother rats who were given phthalates had male babies with a smaller penis and scrotum. These male baby rats also had lower sperm counts and their AGD was shorter.

Off the back of this research, Dr. Swan conducted a study where the urine of pregnant women was stored and tested for phthalates, and then the AGD of their male babies and toddlers was measured. The results showed the same as the study on the rodents: phthalate syndrome. She then conducted a study of college-age men, where participants provided a semen sample and had their AGD measured. This showed that the shorter the AGD, the lower the sperm count.

Dr. Swan believes this constitutes a reproductive crisis. Her research predicts that by 2045, we will have a median sperm count of zero, and most couples may have to use assisted reproductive technology.

Can Sperm Quality Be Improved?

Just like women, it’s ideal for men to start having children in their 20s to give themselves the best chance of having a healthy baby. However, life doesn’t always pan out that way. Just like many women would prefer to settle down and have children in their 20s, lots of men find themselves single in their 30s, without a child. But just because fertility takes a decline for both genders, it doesn’t mean nothing can be done to improve fertility and your chances of conception.

This is what Rebecca Fett covers in her book It Starts with the Egg. Although this book primarily focuses on female fertility and egg health, she also covers sperm health. In her book, she takes a look at what men can do to reduce the effects of aging (and other fertility issues) on their reproductive health and provides a list of supplements men can add to their diet to increase their chances of conception.

Common toxins, smoking, alcohol consumption, and a diet high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat are all things Fett recommends avoiding to reduce the chances of compromising sperm quality at a molecular level. 

She also recommends men start taking a daily multivitamin to improve sperm quality, one that contains antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc. Many studies have shown that these antioxidants can improve sperm quality and increase the chance of conceiving, whether the couple is trying to conceive naturally or through fertility treatment.

Closing Thoughts

Although red pill men like to lord over women, telling them they are less valuable in the sexual marketplace over 35, they are entirely wrong for a number of reasons. There is plenty a woman can do to preserve her fertility naturally and increase her chances of becoming pregnant later in life. 

Although it’s less well-known, age-related male fertility decline is well-established, and it’s important men are educated on this topic too. For too long, women have been blamed for infertility issues when they only account for 50%. It’s important age-related fertility in men isn’t ignored so couples can take the right steps to help conception and a healthy pregnancy.

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