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Do older men still produce sperm?

Yes, older men generally continue to produce sperm throughout their lifetime. However, sperm production and quality tend to decline with advancing age. Here’s a quick overview of how aging affects male fertility:

Sperm Production in Older Men

Sperm production occurs in the testicles and is controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain. After puberty, sperm production continues throughout a man’s life. However, both the amount and quality of sperm decline as a man gets older.

Starting around age 40, the number of sperm cells and the volume of semen produced during ejaculation begin to decrease. One study found that sperm concentration decreased by around 3% per year after age 40. The volume of semen during ejaculation declines by about 0.7 ml per year.

By age 80, sperm concentrations are typically less than half of what they were during a man’s reproductive prime in his 20s. Despite the decline, most men continue to produce at least some healthy sperm even into their 80s and 90s.

What Causes Sperm Production to Decline?

There are several reasons sperm production declines with age:

  • The testes shrink and produce fewer sperm cells. This process starts around age 40.
  • Hormone changes occur, especially lower testosterone levels, which reduces sperm production.
  • Oxidative stress and DNA damage increase, leading to poorer sperm quality.
  • Chronic health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension become more common and impact fertility.

How Does Sperm Quality Change?

In addition to lower sperm counts, advancing age leads to a decline in sperm motility (movement) and morphology (shape).

Normal sperm motility decreases about 3-5% per year after age 40. By age 70, only about 35-40% of sperm have normal motility compared to 60% in younger men. Sperm movement allows sperm to effectively swim to and fertilize the egg.

The percentage of sperm with normal shape also declines with age. Misshapen sperm are less able to fertilize an egg. The proportion of sperm with normal morphology decreases from about 60% to less than 30% from age 40 to 70.

Older men also have higher rates of sperm DNA damage, which negatively impacts fertility and the health of offspring. Semen volume and sperm concentration decrease too, reducing the total sperm count.

How Does Male Age Affect Fertility and Getting a Woman Pregnant?

Due to the age-related changes in sperm characteristics, fertility and conception rates start to decline significantly after age 40. One study found:

  • For men under 30 – Fertility was unaffected by age
  • Age 35 – Fertility begins to decline gradually
  • Age 40 – The chance of conception within 1 year was about 40% compared to 50% in younger men
  • Age 45 – The chance of conception dropped to about 30% per cycle

Pregnancy rates continue to decline steadily through the 40s and 50s. Once over age 55, less than 10-15% of men are able to father a child within 1 year of trying. However, viable pregnancy is still possible, and there are men in their 60s, 70s, and older who have conceived.

Do Older Men Need Fertility Testing?

Due to the natural decline in sperm characteristics, fertility testing is recommended for men over 40 who are trying to conceive. A semen analysis can check sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.

Testing helps identify any age-related fertility decline and determines if help is needed. If sperm parameters are within normal ranges for age, lifestyle changes may improve chances of conception.

For men with abnormal semen analysis results, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be needed.

Can Older Men Improve Their Fertility?

While some changes are inevitable with age, certain lifestyle factors can help maximize sperm production and quality:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity adversely affects sperm and lowers testosterone.
  • Exercise regularly – Moderate exercise may boost sperm count and motility.
  • Don’t smoke – Smoking is toxic to sperm and ovaries.
  • Limit alcohol – Heavy drinking can lower testosterone and impact sperm formation.
  • Reduce stress – High stress may hamper fertility by lowering sperm count and testosterone.
  • Get nutrients for fertility – Zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and antioxidants support sperm health.

In some men with very low testosterone, testosterone replacement therapy under a doctor’s supervision may help boost sperm production. However, this approach is controversial.

The Bottom Line

While sperm quantity and quality decrease with male age, most men continue producing sperm throughout life. Men in their senior years can still father children, though fertility rates are much lower.

Older men trying to conceive should get a semen analysis to assess fertility status. Lifestyle changes and fertility treatments in some cases can help improve chances of conception.