How Does Sexual Abstinence Affect Sperm Quality?

By BSc, MSc (embryologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 09/01/2015

Sexual abstinence for over 7 days does not improve spermatozoid conditions, neither in terms of quality nor in terms of quantity. However, engaging in sexual activity everyday helps to maintain semen quality stable.

Provided bellow is an index with the 4 points we are going to expand on in this article.

Ideal abstinence period

World Health Organization (WHO) has established an abstinence period of between 2 and 7 days as ideal to achieve a pregnancy. It is commonly believed that a greater period of abstinence improves semen quality, but this theory remains far from reality. Sexual abstinence for over 7 days leads to a decreased sperm motility and an increased presence of free radicals, which may negatively affect sperm quality.

Daily sexual intercourse increases pregnancy chances and does not seem to significantly affect semen quality. Although sperm concentration may be compromised, their quality may remain the same.

Sexual abstinence and ART

When a man has to undergo a seminogram or to provide a semen sample, which will be used during the treatment, he should be abstinent from 2 to 5 days.

Semen quality and quantity should be ideal. A perfect concentration is achieved after 2 to 5 abstinence days. The concentration is not too excessive, favouring the appearance of free radicals and making spermatozoids slower, nor is it too scarce, contributing to a low fertilization rate.

Lifestyle and semen quality

When men are trying to become fathers, they worry about how their lifestyles can affect fertility and how they can improve it.

Sport is one of the most questioned aspects. Many men wonder whether playing sports can negatively affect their sperm quality. Dr Pacheco defends that regular exercise is beneficial. However, top-class sports can be prejudicial since it requires strenuous training sessions and, usually, restrict diets.

Too tight clothes can affect spermatozoid production because they press the testicles against the body, increasing their temperature, which should be inferior to that of the organism. Placing the laptop on your lap also increases the temperature and can affect sperm quality.

Another frequent question is related to consumption of toxic substances like tobacco and alcohol. While not drinking and smoking will not improve spermatozoid production, sperm will also not be damaged by those habits. When a man stops drinking and smoking, his spermatozoids regain their normal quality.

Antibiotics and anabolics contribute to the decrease of male fertility. Dr Pacheco recommends a Mediterranean diet and the consumption of citrus fruit, which have an antioxidant function.

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 Neus Ferrando Gilabert
Neus Ferrando Gilabert
BSc, MSc
Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH). Experience managing Embryology and Andrology Labs at Centro Médico Manzanera (Logroño, Spain). More information about Neus Ferrando Gilabert
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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