Can abstinence affect sperm quality?

Sperm quality


Elaine Otrofanowei is a Fertility and Women's Health Acupuncturist with a strong and personal interest in peri/menopause. Through; she provides Acupuncture and Functional Medicine to patients to help them restore their health and wellbeing and specialise in the treatment of both male and female infertility and other women’s health issues.

May 6, 2024

What happens to sperm quality after a long period of abstinence?

For men with normal sperm counts, studies find that semen volume and sperm count/concentration increase after two days of abstinence. However, sperm quality—the motility (movement) and morphology (shape) of sperm—decrease after two days of abstinence, with a significant impact seen after 7–10 days

Additionally, the genetic health of sperm suffers with longer abstinence windows. In one study, mitochondrial damage and DNA fragmentation increased with increasing periods of abstinence.

The sperm production process takes around 72 days and are stored in epididymis in the testicles

Sperm that are stored up for too long within the epididymis are going to find themselves under attack from heat and ultimately oxidative stress, especially if there are lifestyle or physiological factors aggravating this. Oxidative stress is one of the biggest factors that can impair the sperm’s ability to function properly and will ultimately impact their ability to reach and fertilise the egg.

Yes, abstaining from ejaculation may well mean you have more sperm within the epididymis, but they will be more prone to damage, meaning that they’re less effective. If a man fails to ejaculate regularly, then the sperm will naturally die off and be reabsorbed into the body. What you don’t want is this dying or damaged sperm to be what you produce for an IVF cycle or for when you’re trying to conceive naturally.

Abstinence before sperm collection for IVF, semen analysis, or sperm freezing.

A longstanding recommendation from the WHO suggests that men abstain from ejaculation and sex for a period of two to seven days before collection for IVF semen testing or sperm freezing. As we outlined above, sperm counts are typically highest after waiting for two days, but sperm quality is negatively affected after seven days.

So what’s the main take away from this?

Arming yourself with a full understanding of your body’s ability to produce viable sperm helps you
find the right path for conception. Use sperm testing for a comprehensive picture of your sperm health, and build a plan based on the results. Sperm testing allows you to be more proactive when it comes to your fertility.

With advancements in at-home sperm testing, you’ll get clear answers, privacy, and the right knowledge and tools to decide for yourself what’s best. And that is the most valuable thing of all.

Mojo at-home sperm testing.

Male fertility supplements

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