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Sperm quality rises in winter

18 March 2013

By Simon Hazelwood-Smith

Appeared in BioNews 697

Human semen quality may rise and fall in seasonal variation, with the best quality being produced in the winter and spring.

Research suggests that semen produced during that time has a greater concentration of sperm of which a higher percentage are fast moving and appear normal when looked at under a microscope.

Researchers took semen samples from 6,477 men who had been referred with their partner to a fertility clinic in Israel. Men who had sperm counts in the normal range averaged 71 million sperm per millilitre in spring, which fell to a low of 64 million in autumn. Although total sperm motility was greatest during the summer months, the percentage of fast-moving sperm, thought to increase the chances of fertilisation, was highest in winter.

In men with lower than normal sperm concentration seasonal variation was less marked. The highest percentage of sperm with normal morphology was in the spring, and a slight trend towards greater motility was also observed during this time. However neither the concentration of sperm or the percentage of fast-moving sperm altered significantly between seasons.

The findings have not been directly linked with increased conception rates in the winter although Israeli birth statistics do show an increase in births during the autumn. The authors of the paper suggest that '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'.

The majority of previous studies on seasonal variations in sperm production have been performed in animals. In pigs, sperm cell development seems to be affected by temperature and in hamsters some of the genes controlling seasonal production have been identified.

Although this study is one of the first to show seasonal sperm quality variation in humans, the authors are confident enough to suggest that men with low sperm concentration should seek fertility treatment in spring and autumn.

However, speaking to Reuters, urologist Dr Edmund Sabanegh, director of the Centre for Male Fertility in Cleveland, USA, who was not involved in the study, disagreed. 'We would continue to encourage [patients] to try regardless of the season, and they may benefit from interventions or treatments', he said.

The research was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


18 May 2015 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
Scientists have shown that there are seasonal changes in how our immune system functions....
09 June 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Cannabis use affects thesize and shape of sperm, according to a large study on lifestyle choices, environmental factors and semen quality...
28 April 2014 - by Dr Rachel Brown 
A protein that allows eggs and sperm to fuse together has been identified by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge...
04 November 2013 - by Dr Naqash Raja 
A fertility test which allows men to check their sperm count in the comfort of their home - or wherever they feel is most suitable - has gone on sale in the UK...
02 September 2013 - by Dr Shanya Sivakumaran 
Two UK newspapers have proclaimed the fertility-boosting benefits of the raspberry, with NHS Choices branding the claims 'misleading'...

11 February 2013 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Physical activity is strongly associated with men's sperm quality according to a study looking into the effects of TV viewing and exercise...
18 June 2012 - by Helen Brooks 
An unhealthy lifestyle may not affect sperm quality as much as previously thought. A study in the journal Human Reproduction indicates that smoking, high alcohol consumption and being overweight all have little effect on semen quality...
19 March 2012 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Men who consume a diet rich in saturated fat - the type found in junk food - have lower sperm counts than men whose diets contain low levels of such fats, according to scientists...
06 February 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Exposure to increased levels of vitamin D could boost your fertility, a recent study suggests. The findings may also explain why conception rates fall in the winter and peak in the summer in Northern European countries....
05 December 2011 - by Luciana Strait 
Ejaculated sperm has been shown to be significantly damaged by prolonged exposure to a WiFi connected laptop. A study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, found that after four hours of exposure there was a significant decrease in sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation....

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