Abstinence and Sperm Quality

It has been a misconception over time that sperm quality improves over long periods of ejaculation (Hahn, 2012). Much debate has been on how many days a normal fertile man should abstain to replenish his sperm stock and return to normal ejaculation. Moreover it has been an issue as to how many days should a man with infertility problems abstains to restock his sperms (Gurevich, 2014). The time taken by the two different individuals to produce a new batch of quality sperms differs (WHO, 2011). This is dues to the fact that a fertile man and infertile man take different time for their tester ones to produce semen. In fact the quantities of sperm produced per ejaculation by a fertile and infertile man differ by a great margin (Soliman, Yassin & Sanctis, 2014).  It has been over time noted that sperms quality improves after a short period of abstinence. Much research has been done to verify and validate the above statement (Carlson, Camin & Quill, 2013).  Moreover most medical practitioners have concurred that a limited absence from sexual activity increases the quality of semen produced by a male person (Weiner, 2013). Medical practitioners have researched on the morphology and motility of semen after a certain period of time and noted that it improves after a short period of abstinence. However the situation deteriorates and low sperm counts per millimeter are noted after a long period of abstinence from sexual activity. Most men who abstain for sex for more than a day produce poor quality semen and a few of them show normal sperm count with no improvement at all (Perkins & Meyers-Thompson, 2013). Therefore medical experts recommend that if sperm quality improvement is needed then a man should abstain for a very short period of time lasting not more than a day. It has been misconceptions that if a man abstains from sex for a longer period of time he improves the shape and his sperms’ ability to swim (Elzanaty, Malm & Giwercman, 2012).

This after a massive research has been proved wrong and no medical study has come out to support that statement over the years. However most people have strongly held out that abstinence improves sperm quality and sperm count at large (Levitas et al. 2014).  In fact, a study recently released presents the strongest evidence to date supporting the claim that abstinence actually holds no benefits for couples that have normal fertility levels. In contrast, abstaining from intercourse can actually hinder conception for couples undergoing fertility treatments, proving to be more harmful than helpful according to Falcone & Hurd (2013).Some studies claim that delaying ejaculation might increase the volume and concentration of sperm but, infrequent ejaculation as a result of abstinence can impair the percentage of normal sperm and motile sperm (Lenzi et al. 2012).  This is extremely damaging when it comes to conception thus, the studies state that men should ejaculate between three and four times a week to ensure a proper amount of motile, normal sperm (Henkel, Hajimohammad & Stalf, 2014).  Most medical researchers have advised men to have sex frequently if they ever want to improve the quality of their sperm counts as well as the shape and motility of the semen they ejaculated. The time period between two ejaculations determined the quality and rather the amount of spermatozoa produced per an ejaculation (Carrell, 2013). In fact the studies show that men who frequently ejaculated increased the quality of their semen and also their chance of producing fertile sperms (In Allahbadia & In Merchant, 2014).

In many cases couples who want to conceive are advised not to waste any chance they get to have a sexual activity as this increases their chance of conceiving and having a baby.  Men are also advised to carry out sexual activity during mornings as that is when their sperm count is high (Mulhall, 2013). In men with infertility problems abstinence of one day improves their sperm motility and morphology. However in men with normal fertility conditions improvement in sperm count and quality takes up to five or seven days of abstinence. Normal men with regular ejaculation and fertility have to wait for five to seven days to replenish their semen after an ejaculation (Moghissi, 2011). Their sperm quality will then increase. According to the World Health Organization the following is done to measure or rather investigate the relationship between abstinence and the quality of sperms produced after the test (Rowe et al, 2013). Sperm is collected using masturbation. No lubricants should be used as they may contain bacteria that can kill or rather destroy the produced sperms (Hu et al, 2012). The sperms should then be stored in non-spermicidal containers to increase their lifespan. For instance sperms produced for test should not be stored in condoms as it may affect their lifespan (Yerram, Sandlow & Brannigan, 2012). Sperms stored in a latex condom decrease at a rate of 60% per minute. Before this masturbation the man should have abstained for a period of between two and seven days to enable collection of a good analysis sample (Esteves, Miyaoka & Agarwal, 2011). The sperms are then taken for quality tests at fertility laboratories and clinics that follow the World Health Organization’s criteria of sperm count test (Cooper et al, 2011). Several tests are done on the collected semen; morphology test, anti-sperm antibody testing, endocrine assessment and genetic testing. Since production of sperms takes 70 to 90 days the test should be repeated after this period has elapsed (Esteves et al, 2012).

Researchers found that if men had low sperm counts their sperm steadily became less mobile after an average of one day’s abstinence and their sperm also began to suffer subtle changes in shape, a sign that the sperm were going stale(Basu, 2005). Men with low sperm counts are often advised to abstain from sex in order to improve their sperm count, but new research suggests that while this may improve sperm count, too much abstinence can damage the DNA of the sperm that is produced (Fritz  & Speroff, 2010).  Australian researchers have found that having daily sex actually improves the quality, if not the quantity of sperm and the thought behind this is that regular ejaculations get rid of the old sperm and make way for newer healthier sperm (Guidelines on Male Infertility, 2013). When men go without ejaculating, the number of sperm stored in the epididymis at the top of the testicle increases, hence the standard advice to have sex every two to three days if you are trying to conceive according to Basu (2012).

The longer that sperm sits in the epididymis, however, the more genetic damage it accumulates through exposure to heat and to oxygen free radicals and regular ejaculation empties this sperm reservoir, ensuring that newly-produced sperm of higher genetic quality can get out (Bechtel, Stains & Men’s Health Books, 2011). With increasing abstinence period the morphology and motility of the produced sperm decreases as studies have observed (Kaplan & Los Angeles Times, 2011). More quality sperm is produced with only a limited period of abstinence (London Fertility Centre, 2014).

The number of motile sperms produced by oligospermic male persons, increase within forty eight hours of abstinence. Since they have an infertility issue they need to ejaculate more often to increase the quality of sperm they produce per a single ejaculation (Baby Centre, 2014). The more they ejaculate the more fertile semen they produce at any given period of time. Medical experts and researchers have found out that since men with infertility problems produce less sperm per ejaculation they need to ejaculate more to match the ejaculation of a normal healthy person (Garnick, 2011). In this case they are able to empty their epididymis since they ejaculate more. This gives a chance for their testerones to produce a new batch of healthier sperms which are fertile and motile enough. Without doing that men with infertility problems cannot improve their sperm quality (Maggi, Buvat & Corona, 2012).

However on normal men the sperm count is high and they produce quite a large quantity of sperms per a single ejaculation (Levine & Grifo, 2011). They therefore need to give their testerones enough time to produce more semen. Studies show that it takes around seventy five days to produce semen which is then stored in the epididymis. The produced semen can only be finished after the new semen has been produced. Owing to this factor a five to seven days of abstinence is recommended to allow the testerones produce new healthier sperms (World Health Organization, 2012). Fertile men are therefore recommended to take an abstinence period of not more than seven days. After the seven days their sperms start becoming stale and useless for fertility purposes (Suarez, 2012). However this doesn’t limit a fertile man to sexual activity only after the seven recommended days (Murray, 2012). He should enjoy sex whenever he feels like although this might deteriorate the quality of his sperm (Lishko & Kirichok, 2011). Continued regular ejaculation leads to production of semen that has not completely matured up and this may lead to ejaculation o semen that is not fertile (Fertility – Assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems, 2013). With daily ejaculation the morphology of semen deteriorates as well as its motility (Zhu et al, 2014). In these men with normal ejaculation, daily ejaculation leads to production of semen that cannot swim well and is amorphous in shape (Hamada & Agarwal, 2011). As well the produced semen cannot stand longer lifespan and are rendered worthless after a few minutes of ejaculation even if they are in the vagina.

According to Weschler (2012), longer periods of abstinence correlate with poorer results – one study found that couples where the man had abstained for more than 10 days before an intrauterine insemination (IUI) had only a 3% pregnancy rate (Walsh et al, 2011). This means that even though abstinence increases the sperm quality an exaggerated abstinence could lead to lower sperm qualities in fertile men (Khera & Lipshultz, 2014). When sperms stay in the epididymis for more than seven days, say ten days, they become exposed to environmental agents such as heat eventually rendering them useless (Hinz, S., Rais-Bahrami, S., Kempkensteffen, 2011). On exposure to these environmental agents for a period of about ten days the semen starts becoming stale and is no longer fertile meaning that its quality has been has been lowered (Tesarik, Greco & Mendoza, 2014). The studies above demonstrate that abstinence is largely irrelevant for normal couples whereas men with low sperm counts shouldn’t abstain for more than one or two days prior to intercourse (Sabanegh & Agarwal, 2011). Of course, increased frequency of intercourse is ideal for couples trying to conceive, and you shouldn’t be waiting for ovulation to occur in order to do so (Balasch, J & Gratacos, 2012).

However, it is also important to note that this doesn’t mean that intercourse should be excessive because you run the risk of depleting your sperm storage but instead, you should be focused on keeping your system flushed to ensure that sperm are fresh rather than stale (Jense, Morbeck & Coddington, 2011). Following ejaculation, sperm require one to two days to completely refresh and recoup their numbers (Van Peperstraten et al, 2013). Sperm will last for two weeks prior to breaking down and being reabsorbed into the body (Wyns, 2013). Occasional ejaculation helps in maintaining the safety of the sperm’s DNA since longer storage of semen exposes it to the risk of destruction (O’Flynn O’Brien, Varghese & Agarwal, 2011). The destructivity possibility of sperm is dependent of the longevity of the semen storage (Bensdorp, 2012).

Some research has shown that men in marriage have lower testosterone as compared to bachelors (Van der Meij et al, 2011). Single men have higher testosterone levels than their married counterparts, and those whose marriages were reported as happy and without conflict also have lower levels of the male hormone than their peers in rocky unions (Carrell, 2013). Similarly childless fathers have higher testosterone than married men who have children (Pollet, Cobey  & Van Der Meij, 2013). However these are the first studies that have looked into the effect of families on the testosterone level of men (Van Anders, Tolman & Volling, 2012). However, this is much related to the level of sexual activity that is experienced by men in different marital statuses (Sigman, Lipshultz& Howard, 2011). Men in marriage are not expected to abstain for long as compared to the bachelors (Chandra et al., 2011). Bachelors are not much into sex and are expected to have occasional periods of abstinence even if they don’t last for long time (Evans, 2011).

The concept of flushing out your sperm storage really works to improve the quality of sperms produced by the male persons. In most cases, people who frequently have sex regularly produce the best semen ever. The semen they produce contains undestroyed DNA and is very fertile (Avendano, Franchi & Taylor, 2014). Most men who regularly have sex are likely to impregnate ladies who are in their ovulation period since their sperms are not stale and are more motile (Pizzorno & Murray, 2012). Sperms produced by these men have the likelihood to survive more since they are matured enough. They can swim comfortably up the vagina and fuse with the ovum easily. The semen produced is good enough to cause pregnancy (In Boylan, 2014).

Researchers found that if men had low sperm counts their sperm steadily became less mobile after an average of one day’s abstinence (Agarwal, Aitken & Alvarez, 2012). Their sperm also began to suffer subtle changes in shape, a sign that the sperm were going stale but the sperm of men with normal sperm counts showed little change in mobility after abstinence, and did not begin to go stale until much later (Bentley, 2012).  Sperms are occasionally replenished after two to three days immediately after a man ejaculates. This means that a man with normal sperm counts should only have sex after those days of replenishment (Jain & Gupta, 2012). This ensures that the sperms he produces are of good quality and are more motile (Bardin, 2012). Moreover the sperms have a good morphological shape.

Longer periods of abstinence lead to production of a higher volume of sperms in one ejaculation (Palmer, 2013). However in this case the concentration of sperms is much lower and their morphology assessment is very low compared to sperms produced within a shorter period of abstinence (Practice Committee of American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 2011). According to Patton & Battaglia (2011), we assume that the various semen parameters are strongly related to abstinence duration, particularly regarding subnormal semen and after only 2 days of abstinence, sperm from patients with male factor infertility initiate a process of quality degradation (Hammoud, 2014).

In as much as sperm quality is affected by periods of abstinence several factors also need to be considered when it comes to sperm motility, lifespan and morphology (Hutchins, 2011). Sperm quality is among others affected by nutrition and diet of the person, lack of exercise, time of ejaculation, long time stress, drug and substance abuse, physical trauma and exposure to health hazards such as radioactivity (Jensen et al, 2011). In as much as people may take the right abstinence measures to improve the quality and fertility of sperms the quality may be deteriorated by the above factors (Evers, Collins & Clarke, 2013). This means that abstinence plays a partial part in sperm quality maintenance. This means that we could only use abstinence as a function of sperm quality holding other factors constant (Speroff & Fritz, 2011). However according to medical research that has been carried out the major factor that affects the quality of sperms is the level of abstinence. It is the factor most studies are interested with while looking into the issue of sperm quality (Storey, 2011). Therefore this means that abstinence is a weighty issue that influences the quality of sperms in both normal male individuals and men with infertility problems.

Having this in mind it is therefore important to note the essential role of abstinence in maintaining quality sperms during ejaculation of semen (Yeung, 2011). The use of abstinence in improving seminal quality is very effective in use for any type of man (Schiff, Ramírez & Bar-Chama, 2014). For men with infertility problems should use short period abstinence to improve the quality of their semen (Morin, 2013). This means that due to a low sperm count in those men they should ejaculate as many times as possible if their sperms are to be of quality and fertile (Bedaiwy, M. A., & Rizk, 2014). These men should abstain for not more than two days to increase their sperm concentration. Their sperms are less motile and morphological in nature since these men rarely flush their sperm storage meaning that their cases of impregnating are rare (Gerris, 2011). They should therefore have sex frequently to ensure that their sperms are not left to become stale in the epididymis. For men with normal fertility abstinence should take place after five to seven days (Showell et al, 2011). These men produce lots of seminal volume with a high sperm concentration in a single ejaculation. If they have sex very frequently they risk depleting their sperm stores. They should therefore give their reproductive systems enough time to replenish the ejaculated sperms (Goldstein & Schlegel, 2013). However this time should not exceed the seven days since the semen after that time is rendered useless. It is recommended that an abstinence of not more than seven days after a single ejaculation gives the body enough time to reproduce more sperms of higher quality and at the same time preventing staling of the sperms. In other words, it allows a balance of sperms within the reproduction system.




Agarwal, A., Aitken, R. J., & Alvarez, J. G. (2012). Studies on men’s health and fertility. New York: Humana Press.

Avendano, C., Franchi, A & Taylor, S. (2014). Fragmentation of DNA in morphologically normal human spermatozoa. Fertil Steril, 91(4), 1077 – 1084.

Baby Centre. (2014).Common causes of fertility problems in men, Retrieved 1 July, 2014, from http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1014459/common-causes-of-fertility-problems-in-men

Balasch, J & Gratacos, E. (2012). Delayed Childbearing: Effects on fertility and the outcome of pregnancy. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Jun;24(3):187-93. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0b013e3283517908.

Bardin, J. (2012). Human sperm seen propelling selves by four different swim strokes, Retrieved 1 July, 2014, from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/17/science/lat-sci-sn-sperm-swim-strokes-20120917

Basu, S. C. (2012). Male reproductive dysfunction (Revised Ed.). New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers.

Bedaiwy, M. A., & Rizk, B. (2014). Fertility preservation: Advances and controversies.

Bechtel, S., Stains, L., & Men’s Health Books (Firm). (2011). Sex: A man’s guide. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press.

Bensdorp, A. J., Cohlen, B.J., Heineman, M.J & Vandekerckhove, P. (2012). Intra-uterine insemination for male subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Reviewed 2007 Oct 17;(4):CD000360.

Bentley, G. R. (2012). Infertility in the modern world: Present and future prospects. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Carlson, A. E., Camino D & Quill, T. A. (2013). Pharmacological targeting of native CatSper channels reveals a required role in maintenance of sperm hyperactivation. London: Routledge.

Carrell, D. T. (2013). Paternal influences on human reproductive success.

Chandra, A., Mosher, W. D., Copen, C., Division of Social Statistics, National Centre for Health Statistics. (2011). Sexual Behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 national survey of family growth. National Health Statistics Reports, 36, 1-36.

Cooper, T. G, Noonan, E., von Eckardstein, S., Auger, J., Baker, H. W & Behre, H. M. (2011). World Health Organization reference values for human semen characteristics. Hum Reprod Update, 16(3):131-145.

Ellekilde, B. J. P. (2013). Semen analysis from an epidemiologic perspective. Asian Journal of Health,12(1):91-104.

Elzanaty, S., Malm, J & Giwercman, A. (2012). Duration of sexual abstinence: epididymal and accessory sex gland secretions and their relationship to sperm motility. London: Routledge.

Esteves, S. C., Miyaoka, R & Agarwal A. (2011). An update on the clinical assessment of the infertile male. San Paulo Clinic, 66(4), 691–700.


Esteves, S. C, Zini, A, Aziz, N., Alvarez, J. G., Sabanegh ES. Jr., Agarwal, A. (2012). Critical appraisal of World Health Organization’s new reference values for human semen characteristics and effect on diagnosis and treatment of subfertile men. Urology, 79(1),16-22.

Evans, C. (2011). Forty beads: The simple, sexy secret for transforming your marriage. Philadelphia: Running Press.

Evers, J. H., Collins, J & Clarke, J. (2013). Surgery or embolisation for varicoceles in subfertile men. Cochrane Database Syst Reviewed 2009 Jan 21.

Falcone, T., & Hurd, W. W. (2013). Clinical reproductive medicine and surgery (2nd Ed.). Philadelphia: Mosby.

Fertility – Assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems. (2013). NICE Guidance (Feb 2013).

Garnick, M. (24 February 2011). Does frequent ejaculation help ward off prostate cancer?”.  Harvard Medical School Prostate Knowledge. Harvard University. Retrieved 9 February 2013.

Gerris, J.(2011). Methods of semen collection not based on masturbation or surgical sperm retrieval. Hum Reprod Update, 5(3):211-5.

Goldstein, M., & Schlegel, P. N. (2013). Surgical and medical management of male infertility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Guidelines on Male Infertility. (March, 2013). European Association of Urologists (Mar 2013)

Gurevich, R. (2014).Sperm count testing and semen analysis, Retrieved 1 July, 2014, from http://infertility.about.com/od/infertilitytesting/a/spermcounttest.htm

Hamada, U & Agarwal, A. (2011). Unexplained male infertility potential causes and management. Human Andrology, 1(1), 2–16.

Hammoud, A. O., Gibson, M., Peterson, C. M., Meikle, A. W & Carrell, D. T.(2014). Impact of male obesity on infertility: a critical review of the current literature. Fertil Steril, 90(4), 897-904.

Hahn, K. (2012). Fertility facts: Hundreds of tips for getting pregnant. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Henkel, R., Hajimohammad, M & Stalf, T. (2014).  Influence of deoxyribonucleic acid damage on fertilization and pregnancy. Fertil Steril, 81(4), 965 – 972.

Hinz, S., Rais-Bahrami, S., Kempkensteffen, C .(2011).  Effect of obesity on sex hormone levels, antisperm antibodies, and fertility Urology. 2011 Oct; 76(4), 851-6.

Hutchins, A. I. (2011). The Infertility Handbook: The complete resource for couples longing to have a baby. Wollombi: Exisle Pub.

Hu, J. C. Y., Seo, B. K., Neri, Q. V., Rozenwaks, Z & Palermo, G. D. (2012).P-001 The role of HA selection on spermatozoon competence. Human Reproduction, 27(2), 27-73.

In Boylan, M. (2014). Medical ethics. London: Routledge.

In Allahbadia, G., & In Merchant, R. (2014). Intrauterine insemination.

Jain, T & Gupta, R.S.(2012). Trends in the use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection in the United States. American Journal of  Medicine, 357(3), 251-272.

Jensen T. K, Swan S. H, Skakkebaek N. E, Rasmussen S, & Jørgensen N. (2011). “Caffeine intake and semen quality in a population of 2,554 young Danish men”. American Journal of Epidemiology 171 (8), 883–891.

Jensen, J. R., Morbeck, D. E & Coddington, C. C. (2011).Fertility preservation. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Retrieved 1 July, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2811%2960118-3/abstract

Kaplan, K & Los Angeles Times. (2011).Sperm made from stem cells could aid men with fertility problems, Retrieved 1 July, 2011, from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/05/news/la-heb-sperm-made-from-stem-cells-20110805

Khera & Lipshultz, L. I. (2014). Evolving approach to Mens fertility. Urol Clin North America, 35(2), 183-199.

Levitas, E., lLunenfeld, E., Weiss, N., Friger, M., Har-Vardi, I & Koifman, A. (2014). Relationship between duration of sexual abstinence and semen quality: analysis of 9,489 semen samples. Fertil Steril, 83,1680-1696.

Lenzi, A., Lombardo, F., Salacone, P., Gandini L & Jjannini, E .A (2012). Stress, sexual dysfunctions, and male infertility. J Endocrinol Investiments, 26, 1517-1521.

Levine, B. A & Grifo, J. A.(2011). Intrauterine insemination and male subfertility. Urol Clin North America, 35(4),271-296.

Lishko, P. V & Kirichok, Y. (2011). The role of Hv1 and CatSper channels in sperm activation.  American Journal of Medicine, 58(23),4667 – 4672.

London Fertility Centre. (2014).Semen analysis and semen freezing, Retrieved