Are You A Gambling Man?

The case of the month is an actual patient of The Turek Clinic.

He appeared healthy. No issues with testosterone, erections,or sex drive. No infertility problem. No pain. No lumps or bumps. All dialed in with a primary care provider. He was even on time for his appointment. So, why was he here?

“Doc, I’m 40 and single. Just haven’t met ‘the one’ yet. I want kids, but can’t see having them for a good 5-10 years. Should I bank sperm?”

True, True, Kinda Related

Life is a roll of the dice. Courtesy:
Life is a roll of the dice. Courtesy:

He had two concerns: Would he be less fertile down the line, and would his kids be at higher risk of birth defects or other issues if he waited until he were an older Dad. Great questions. And what gave rise to these concerns? “I hear this kind of thing all the time about women’s fertility and thought it might be true for men too.”

Well, he’s right. Sorta. Male fertility does decrease with age but not as dramatically as with women. Here are the truths surrounding male fertility with advancing age:

  • Sperm counts generally don’t fall with age until the 7th or 8thdecade of life.
  • Sperm motility (the proportion of sperm that move) falls with age, but ever so slowly, at a rate of <1%/year.
  • Sperm DNA integrity, or the packaging quality of the sperm’s genetic payload, also tends to decrease with age. This is not picked up on a semen analysis.
  • Erections and sex drive tend to be less robust with age.

So, although each of these issues alone may not cause a problem when combined, they lead to decreased male fertility with age.

What About the Kids?

And, he’s sorta right on the healthy kids point too. Advanced maternal age tends to bring chromosomal issues to bear on children, and this can lead to birth defects and miscarriages. Luckily, they are testable during pregnancy. Similarly, older Dad’s also bring genetic risk to kids but they are quite different and consist mainly of things called point mutations rather than chromosomal issues. This results in different set of disorders in offspring that can occur either early on, or later in life, and can be very debilitating. They include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism. Unfortunately, many of these conditions are not testable during pregnancy.

Also realize that, in the big picture, the chance of kids with an a inherited problem due simply to parental age is low in general, and is driven far more by maternal (90%) than paternal (10%) age. Again, that’s somewhat reassuring because maternal age issues are commonly testable during pregnancy.

Finally, technically, sperm banking is not as simple as “wham, bam, thank you Ma’am.” The Feds (FDA) require blood tests that look at sexually transmitted diseases before banking, and dollars (usually hundreds) need to be forked out to begin and keep an account active. And this bank account isn’t like many others in that it doesn’t just get automatically handed down to next of kin like a mutual fund or a coin collection. The owner of these iced mighty movers needs to prescribe in a will or other formal document exactly what they would like done with the boys if they pass on or can’t decide. Destroy or donate? And to whom? Ethical issues of migraine proportions can result if these issues are not sorted out ahead of time.

So, should he bank sperm? Well, it’s really up to him (and he did). It doesn’t matter much to sperm, as they can remain in deep freeze for a decade or two and come out just fine.

Cross-posted from

Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor

View posts by Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor
Dr. Paul Turek is an internationally known thought leader in men’s reproductive and sexual health care and research. A fellowship trained, board-certified physician by the American Board of Urology (ABU), he has received numerous honors and awards for his work and is an active member in professional associations worldwide. His recent lectures, publications and book titles can be found in his curriculum vitae.


  1. Zak HinesJuly 6, 2015

    Interesting post. As someone who hopes to have children eventually, I think there’s always that certain fear in the back of your mind that you won’t meet “the one” until its “too late” or that there will be something wrong with your sperm thus preventing you and your partner from having children. I’d heard of sperm banking before, but before reading your post I really didn’t know all that much about it. I had no idea how much it cost or that a will needs to be extremely specific in regards to what should be done with it. Very very interesting and I think as time passes and technology continues to improve, sperm banking will become even easier and cheaper.

  2. Harry deCaboJuly 9, 2015

    I believe the longevity of male fertility is a result of human evolution. It was evolutionary advantageous for males to remain fertile well into their middle age in order to bring the human populations up. This is probably also due, in part, by the fact that pre-natal development and birth take little tole on the man, physically. Women, on the other hand, experience fertility problems earlier, and more intensively, probably because the physical demands of carrying and birthing a child are things that an aged body cannot handle well.

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