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article imageDecrease in male sperm count develops in the mother's womb

By Nancy Houser     Dec 6, 2012 in Health
Sperm counts in men are dropping all around the world. Studies are showing that the reduced sperm counts could be forming within the mother's womb at a critical stage of development. This will determine the males' fertility status when they are older.
A global analyses has found a decrease of sperm counts in Israel, India, New Zealand, Tunisia and in a study in Boston, Massachusetts. Studies have found a 50% reduction of male sperm count in the past 50 years, while France leads with a 32% reduction.
Over a 16-year period, Reuters reports that fertility experts found approximately 2 percent annual decrease in the number of sperm in one milliliter of the average man's semen, which is technically defined as abnormal.
Swimming sperm
Swimming sperm
"One would look at that and say it's not all that much. It isn't, but if it's occurring on a yearly basis it can add up," said Centola. "Clearly if this type of decrease continues, we're going to find that we're going to have young men that have low sperm counts," she said.
French sperm studies
Dr. Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, pointed out that the sperm count in French men had fallen from 73.6 million to 49.9 million per milliliter.
However, some of the results from the 26,600 samples were provided by French men whose female partners provided to be infertile, minimizing the results stating that men had a fertility problem.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Dr. Joalle Le Moal, the French's lead author of the Institut de Veille Sanitaire study, says, "A decline in male reproduction endpoints has been suspected for several decades and is still debated all around the world. Geographical differences have been observed between countries, and between areas inside countries."
Global infertility
The Science area of the Independent UK says science has found the reason for the global sperm reduction. "Infertility can begin in the womb, says Steve Connor."
According to the article, as many as one in five healthy young men between the ages of 18 and 25 produce abnormal sperm counts. Statistically, only between five and 15 percent of their sperm is labeled as "normal" according the the World Health Organization. The rest is considered poor quality. In comparison, other male mammals have over 90 percent of sperm - including bulls, rams or rats.
Screenshot of babies with pacifier
Screenshot of babies with pacifier
laurenseger via YouTube
A Danish scientist, Professor Niels Skakkebaek of the University of Copenhagen, first alerted the world to the fact that Western men are suffering an infertility crisis. Among the one in seven couples now classed as infertile, the "male factor" has been found to be the most commonly identified cause.
The current drop in male sperm counts is theorized that men could be completely infertile within a few generations, while other studies suggest it could be finally bottoming out. Either way, because the sperm counts are lowering too rapidly, scientists have ruled out genetics - warranting further studies.
According to the Independent article, "Out for the count: Why levels of sperm in men are falling," experts are speaking of a new phenomenon that is affecting the human male on a global basis. It is a collection of disorders known as testicular dysgenesis syndrome, thought to be starting in the wombs and that of the mothers.
The process of testicular dysgenesis syndrome and the men's sperm production is called spermatogenesis. Even though we see it when young boys are entering adolescence and beginning to show attention to girls, sperm production actually begins a few months before and immediately after birth. "An increasing number of studies point to a crucial 'window' of testicular development that begins in the growing foetus and ends in the first six months of life. Interfere with this critical developmental period, and a baby boy will suffer the lifetime consequences of being a suboptimally fertile man."
Silhouette of pregnant woman
Silhouette of pregnant woman
Photo by Mahalie
Studies on pregnant women have found that those who were exposed to high levels of toxic dioxins have had sons with lower-than-average sperm counts. Women in the 1976 industrial accident in Seveso, Italy, were part of the study. Yet, adult men who have been exposed to dioxins have no effect. Women who eat large amounts of beef when pregnant, especially meat rich in damaging chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, have had sons with lower-than-average sperm counts. Yet adult men who eat large amounts of beef show no problems with low sperm counts.
Studies of migrants between Sweden and Finland have shown that the mother's environment when she was pregnant with the male child has already determined its risk of testicular cancer. Also, statistics are showing that women who smoke while pregnant can bear a son with a dramatic irreversible decrease in sperm count when he is older, at the maximum of 40 percent.
Anything that interferes with the formation of Sertoli cells, the adult cells which act as guardians for the development of sperm cells in the fetus of the mother's womb, will affect sperm production many years later in the male child. "Maternal-lifestyle factors in pregnancy can have quite substantial effects on sperm counts in sons in adulthood, and the most logical mechanism by which this could occur is via reducing the number of Sertoli cells," says Professor Richard Sharpe, fertility research expert at the Medical Research Council.
So far, what the studies show is the mother holds the key to male fertility or infertility when the male child is in the womb. Yet, another study has just come out that says, "... overweight pregnant women tend to produce sons with poor semen quality. But is it being fat that is the cause, or the environmental chemicals stored in fat?"
Hmmm ...
More about decreases in male sperm count, male sperm count develops in womb, male sperm count, Spermatogenesis, testicular dysgenesis syndrome
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