Semen quality in sub-fertile range for a significant proportion of young men from the general German population: a co-ordinated, controlled study of 791 men from Hamburg and Leipzig

Int J Androl. 2008 Apr;31(2):93-102. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2007.00860.x.


Population studies have shown that a high proportion of Nordic men may have so poor semen quality that they can be classified as sub-fertile according to international standards. A question is whether the Nordic data are specific for the Nordic countries or they should be seen as an expression of a general trend in Europe. We therefore carried out a prospective study of semen quality of young men raised in the former East Germany (Leipzig) and West Germany (Hamburg). To enable inter-regional comparisons, we utilized a common European research protocol previously used in studies in the Nordic-Baltic region. Three hundred and thirty-four young men representative of the general population from Hamburg, and 457 from Leipzig delivered semen samples, underwent physical examinations and provided information on life-style and reproductive health parameters. The study period in Hamburg was February 2003--July 2004, and in Leipzig July 2003--April 2005. No significant differences were observed in sperm concentration (median 46, 42, and 44 million/mL for men from Hamburg, Leipzig and the combined Hamburg-Leipzig group respectively) or total sperm count (154,141 and 149 million), whereas the differences for morphologically normal spermatozoa (9.4 and 8.4%) and motile spermatozoa (67 and 81%) were significantly different. Previously published studies have shown reduced fertility with decreasing sperm concentrations below 40-55 millions/mL and normal sperm morphology below 9-19%. Thus, a large fraction of young German men seem to have impaired semen quality that may reduce their natural fertility. However, it remains to be investigated to what extent poor semen quality contributes to the low German fertility rates.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fertility*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Semen*
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone