It is a common misconception that abstinence will save sperm in attempts to increase sperm count as well as the likelihood of conception. 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 the World Health Organization, abstinence for men is required for two to seven days prior to giving a fertility treatment sample. However, this does not mean that couples actively trying to conceive should abstain from intercourse. Those who believe this guideline operate under the false belief that the quality of sperm will increase due to abstinence, however this is simply not true.

Some studies claim that delaying ejaculation might increase the volume and concentration of sperm. However, infrequent ejaculation as a result of abstinence can impair the percentage of normal sperm and motile sperm. As you might suspect, 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.

A Study Regarding Abstinence and the Ability to Conceive

Eliahu Levitas, a fertility specialist in the IVF unit of Israel’s Soroka University Medical Center, conducted a study to examine sperm samples from approximately 6,000 men, all of whom had abstained from intercourse for up to two weeks. Although most of the men in the study had normal sperm counts, approximately one third of the men had low sperm counts, meaning that less than 20m sperm per milliliter were being produced.

Researchers within the study discovered that low sperm counts also caused the steady decrease in sperm motility throughout the course of a typical day of abstinence. Additionally, there were other changes occurring with regard to shape, a telltale sign that sperm were going stale. However, it is important to note that men with normal sperm counts demonstrated little change in motility following abstinence and didn’t show signs of staleness until much later.

What Does This Mean for Me?

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. 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.

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. Instead, you should be focused on keeping your system flushed to ensure that sperm are fresh rather than stale. Following ejaculation, sperm require one to two days to completely refresh and recoup their numbers. Sperm will last for two weeks prior to breaking down and being reabsorbed into the body.

This advice is particularly useful to couples undergoing intrauterine insemination. This fertility treatment requires the collection of small quantities of sperm to then be collected and injected directly into a woman’s uterus. As you might suspect, this treatment demands the best quality sperm possible. Additionally, premium quality sperm is of great importance to fertility techniques such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), especially because the best single sperm is selected from millions for injection into the uterus.