Circadian and circannual rhythms influence not only the environment, but also human physiology. In times of increasing numbers of couples struggling with infertility, and thus increasing demand for successful assisted reproduction, the aim of our study was to evaluate circadian and circannual rhythms and their association with semen quality. A total of 12 245 semen samples from 7068 men, collected at the andrology laboratory of the Department of Reproductive Endocrinology, University Hospital Zurich, between 1994 and 2015, were uniformly analysed in terms of sperm concentration, total sperm count, progressive motility and normal morphology. On the basis of these four parameters, we retrospectively examined the circadian and circannual changes of semen quality. The Mann-Whitney U test and multiple linear regression analysis were used for the statistical evaluation. The semen samples collected in the early morning before 7:30 a.m. showed the highest levels in sperm concentration, total sperm count and normal morphology, all with statistical significance. Progressive motility did not show any significant alterations based on circadian rhythm. Furthermore, a significant increase in sperm concentration and total sperm count was found in spring, with significant decreases in the summer. The highest percentage of normal morphology was found in summer. For progressive motility, no significant seasonal variation could be demonstrated. Male semen quality varies with both circadian and circannual rhythms. Collection of semen in the early morning, where semen quality was highest, can be used to improve natural fertility as well as fertility resulting from assisted reproduction.
Keywords: Human reproduction; circadian changes; circannual changes; infertility; semen quality.