The impact of ejaculatory abstinence on semen analysis parameters: a systematic review

J Assist Reprod Genet. 2018 Feb;35(2):213-220. doi: 10.1007/s10815-017-1086-0. Epub 2017 Nov 16.


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate recent publications and determine the impact of ejaculatory abstinence on semen analysis parameters as well as fertility outcomes.

Methods: This was a systematic review of 28 recent publications. The focus of this study was the impact of abstinence on semen parameters and fertility outcomes in papers published since the year 2000. The specific parameters evaluated were volume, sperm count, motility, morphology, pH, DNA fragmentation rate, viability, and pregnancy or fertilization rates following assisted reproduction.

Results: Twenty-eight recent publications met inclusion criteria. Analysis of publications showed that longer abstinence is associated with increases in semen volume and sperm count. Studies evaluating the effect of abstinence on motility, morphology, and DNA fragmentation rates are contradictory and inconclusive, although a trend appears to exist toward improvements in semen parameters with shorter abstinence. Semen pH was unaffected by abstinence. The majority of publications found no difference in rates of viability with varying abstinence times, although total number of viable sperm increases with increasing abstinence. Some studies evaluating the impact of ejaculatory abstinence on intrauterine insemination (IUI), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and in vitro fertilization (IVF) demonstrated an association between short abstinence and improved outcomes.

Conclusions: The impact of abstinence on sperm quality is complex. While certain semen parameters improve with longer abstinence, others appear to improve with shorter abstinence. No clear recommendations can be made regarding ideal abstinence due to the conflicting nature of current evidence. Going forward, more research is needed to evaluate the impact of abstinence on pregnancy and fertilization rates.

Keywords: Ejaculatory abstinence; Infertility; Semen analysis; Semen parameters; Sperm quality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ejaculation
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Semen / physiology*
  • Semen Analysis / methods*
  • Sexual Abstinence*
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Injections, Intracytoplasmic
  • Sperm Motility