Okay, so, in theory, this seems like it would be an easy answer. The more you ejaculate, the less sperm you have, right? If you’re a woman navigating infertility, you might even be looking for a reason to blame your male partner for your struggles. Maybe not “blame” per se, but searching for a reason why you might be struggling to get pregnant. 

The truth is, the answer isn't that simple, but generally, no, masturbation does not affect sperm count — at least not permanently. 

There have been numerous studies done on this exact topic, as well as studies that examine the effects of masturbation on sperm quality, including motility and morphology. So, let's dive in!

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What is a healthy amount of masturbation for men?

This is an easier answer: there is no right or wrong amount of masturbation. Some men might masturbate once a day or every few days, while others pleasure themselves once a week or every few weeks. All of these are perfectly normal habits and, really, masturbation only becomes “too much” if and when it starts to affect daily responsibilities. 

Can frequent masturbation negatively affect male fertility?

We spoke with Dr. Jessica Ryniec, a fertility specialist, about whether or not masturbation can affect male fertility. 

“Masturbation does not cause male infertility or cause any long-term effects on sperm quality or sperm count. However, if masturbation leads to ejaculation, then it may temporarily affect sperm count because sperm is lost through ejaculation. For example, if someone masturbates recently before providing a sample for a semen analysis, the count may appear lower than it actually is,” Dr. Ryniec explains.

Further, in a study published by the National Library of Medicine, the duration of abstinence and its effect on semen quality was looked at in both normal and pathological samples. Some of the abnormal semen samples were from men with oligozoospermia, a condition in which a man’s sperm concentration is below the lower reference limit of 15 million sperm/mL of ejaculate, and men with teratozoospermia, a condition in which a man has a high amount of abnormally shaped sperm.

The study’s findings demonstrated that extended abstinence from ejaculation correlated with higher sperm concentration overall, except in men who have oligozoospermia. They also found that longer abstinence actually reduced progressive motility in normal and teratozoospermic samples. 

All of this is to say, that depending on a man's individual sperm parameters, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider on masturbation abstinence duration. 

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Should men abstain from masturbating before their partner's fertile window when TTC? 

While frequent male masturbation isn't likely to have much of an effect on male fertility, some data does suggest that there are optimal windows of masturbation and abstinence — especially when trying to conceive. 

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“Regular or frequent masturbation in the fertile window instead of ejaculation through timed intercourse may decrease chances of pregnancy that cycle by decreasing the amount of sperm available at the time of ovulation. But masturbation outside of the fertile window would not impact chances of pregnancy,” says Dr. Ryniec. “On the other hand, there is also no evidence that avoiding masturbation or ejaculation before the fertile window will improve chances while TTC. Because of this, it is ideal to have sex every 1-2 days in the fertile window and to abstain for 2-5 days before a semen analysis or sperm cryopreservation or fertility treatment.”

Ultimately, if your male partner has normal semen parameters, daily or frequent masturbation should not affect their sperm count per ejaculation. However, if you have concerns that your partner’s sperm quality (or quantity) is affecting your chances of getting pregnant, it's recommended to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist for a full male fertility evaluation. Remember: men are 50% of the fertility equation, and a semen analysis never hurts! 


Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.