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Masturbation & Sperm Count?

May is Masturbation Month and as a company that asks thousands of men to masturbate each year (to produce a sperm sample, not for any untoward reasons…) we of course had to talk about it! Masturbation is still one of those things that comes with a bit of shame and embarrassment, but the truth is it’s totally natural and totally ok! 

But can frequent masturbation impact your sperm health? Let’s find out.  

Benefits of masturbating 

Before we get into the connection between masturbation and sperm health, let’s give a shout out to all the great benefits of flying solo to orgasm island. Masturbation and having orgasms are pretty great for your health. They relieve stress, help you sleep better and lift your mood – all things that are great if you are embarking on a fertility journey. We wouldn’t necessarily suggest you pitch frequent masturbation as part of your preconception plan – but give it a go if you like! 

Masturbation could even help you reduce your risk of prostate cancer. A study found that men that ejaculated more than 20 times a month were 20% less likely to develop the disease! 

There are myths that frequent masturbation is bad for you (anyone else told they’d go blind if they didn’t get their hands out of their pants?!) but the truth is that there are way more pros than cons to getting up close and personal/pleasurable with yourself now and again. 

So can frequent masturbation impact your sperm health? 

If you’re rushing to get your next self-love appointment and want the short answer, then the headline here is no – masturbation doesn’t have an overly negative impact on your sperm health or fertility. However, there are a few caveats to that and it mainly comes down to (as with many things on a fertility journey) timing.

Too many ejaculations could potentially impact your short term sperm count

Most research indicates that your sperm count will be at its strongest around 2 days after your last ejaculation. That’s why when you take our test we recommend that you leave a 48 hour period of abstinence before giving your sample. 

Now, sex when trying to conceive can get very perspective, so you might find that your partner suggests you take the same approach and abstain from ejaculating in the lead up to her fertile window or your assisted fertility treatment. Whilst we probably wouldn’t suggest masturbating on the night before you head in for IVF, we also don’t think you need to be that strict about abstinence. For natural conception, generally, we suggest that you have sex every day during your partner’s female window and then aim for 2-3 ejaculations a week the rest of the time. If those are with yourself or with your partner, that’s up to you!  

But too few could impact it too…

However on the flip side, if you leave it too long between ejaculations, you might find your sperm results aren’t the best either. If sperm cells are left in your testicles for a long time, they are more susceptible to damage, from heat and other factors, You might find that they also get a bit lethargic, which can reduce motility. Whilst ejaculating too frequently might impact the count slightly, you still want to ensure you are doing it pretty regularly, as this will help keep your swimmers active and fresh. 

Of course, if you are trying for a baby (or even if you aren’t yet) and have a partner, many of these ejaculations could be with your partner. However, there might be times that your partner is away, or just simply isn’t in the mood for sex right now. On these occasions, masturbating can be a really helpful way to keep your semen in healthy condition!  

So, can I still masturbate if we’re trying to conceive? 

Yes, but just make sure you are thinking about your timing. If you know your partner’s fertile window is coming up – or if you are due to go in for IVF or ICSI – probably don’t take masturbate the day before as you want all your swimmers to be heading where they need to be (aka to fertilise an egg) rather than ending up in a tissue on your bedside table. But the rest of the time, there is no harm than having an occasional date night with your hand. If it keeps you happy and healthy, that’s only going to be a good thing for your fertility journey. 

Masturbation and sperm tests

Obviously, one place where masturbation really shines is when you need to take a sperm test. The beauty of our at-home tests is that your alone time can be enjoyed in the privacy of your bedroom and bathroom, with your personal collection of materials at your disposal. Of course, the other advantage of this kind of test is that you can also have your partner involved if you like. 

However, we do recommend producing your sample from masturbating rather than having sex – as you can’t guarantee getting the full sample in the cup – which could affect your sperm volume score. Another thing to bear in mind when giving yourself a little sperm test self-love is to avoid using lubes and creams as they can kill your swimmers giving you an inaccurate sperm motility result.

Ready to get to know your swimmers up close and personal? Order one of our at-home sperm tests today!  

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.