A little abstinence may go a long way for men with infertility problems.

A new study shows that sperm from men with low sperm counts reached their peak condition after one day of abstinence and deteriorated after more than one day without sex.

They say the findings show that men with low sperm counts who are undergoing infertility treatments should collect sperm samples only after one day of abstinence.

But men with normal sperm who wish to become sperm donors or freeze their sperm for future use (cyropreservation) should collect their sperm samples after seven days of abstinence.

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Abstinence Affects Sperm Quality

Researchers say the duration of sexual abstinence necessary to achieve maximum sperm quality is an issue commonly discussed between doctors and male patients of infertile couples.

Most fertility clinics follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines that call for two to seven days of abstinence before sperm sample collection, regardless of the initial quality of the sperm. Abstinence can affect sperm quality -- including concentration of sperm, percentage of normal sperm, and motility -- all of which help determine the success rates of infertility treatments.

In this study, which appears in the June issue ofFertility and Sterility, researchers looked at whether sperm quality is affected by the duration of sexual abstinence necessary to reach maximum sperm quality.

Researchers analyzed more than 9,000 sperm samples collected from more than 6,000 men and found the duration of abstinence affected sperm quality differently in men. The abstinence duration times necessary for peak sperm quality were quite different among men with healthy sperm versus men with low sperm counts or other sperm quality problems.

In particular, sperm motility (percent of sperm movement) peaked after one day of abstinence in men with infertility problems, but overall sperm quality began to decline after two days of abstinence.

Among men with normal sperm, overall sperm quality peaked after seven days of abstinence and declined after 10 days.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: Levitas, E. Fertility and Sterility, June 2005; vol 83: pp 1680-1686.