Study finds male ageing does affect outcomes for couples with idiopathic infertility who undergo IVF/ICSI cycles

Researchers from Monash University have found that a man’s age does play a part in the success of IVF and ICSI treatments in couples where there is idiopathic (unexplained) infertility, regardless of the woman’s age.

In 2017, 40,375 Australian and New Zealand couples accessed In-vitro fertilization (IVF) or Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatments.

Outcomes for these treatments have long focused on the age of the women, with fertility declining significantly in females once they reach their mid-30s.

Now, new research led by andrologist, clinical embryologist and Monash University PhD candidate, Fabrizzio Horta, has found that although the poorest clinical outcomes occur when both partners are of advanced reproductive age, a man’s age can negatively affect the chance of a live birth, even when men partner with a young women.

The retrospective study performed at Monash University analysed 2,425 IVF/ICSI cycles of couples with idiopathic infertility over a 25-year period between 1992 and 2017, and found that the effect of male ageing on clinical outcomes appeared to be independent of female age. Indeed, the study found that each year of increased male age significantly decreased the chances of live birth by 4.1% in couples presenting with idiopathic infertility that underwent IVF/ICSI.

The results of the study surprised the researchers as their current research suggests that eggs from a young woman’s ovaries could have a better potential to repair DNA damage.

“What this means for couples with unexplained infertility is that both the male’s age as well as the female’s age could be the underlying cause of their infertility, and that both need to be considered when assessing the clinical success of couples who undergo assisted reproductive technologies,” said Fabrizzio.

With the ageing process affecting the quality of both male and female reproductive cells, the researchers believe that new strategies should be developed to ensure the best quality is being used during assisted reproductive treatments, whether that be through improving healthy life styles of patients or developing new treatments and technologies.

“Even though we know the ageing process has been linked to poorer outcomes, we should foster further investigation and education as to the reasons why. The current trend of becoming a parent later in life could have epigenetic implications that could affect our future regenerations; therefore, establishing ageing research in assisted reproductive technologies is important.”

The findings of the study have been published in Human Reproduction.