Does semen retention increase testosterone?

Research on semen retention benefits is incredibly limited.

Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 17, 2024
min read
Does semen retention increase testosterone?
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If you’ve trawled through online forums or navigated social media, you might’ve come across a concept known as semen retention. In fact, semen retention is one of the most popular men’s health topics on Instagram and TikTok, with numerous influencers touting its benefits [1].

Semen retention is exactly as its name suggests; the practice involves eschewing ejaculation and retaining semen instead.

Supporters claim that semen retention delivers all kinds of health benefits, from improving brain function and mood to boosting testosterone levels.

But is there any truth to that last part?

What is semen retention?

Semen retention is all about preventing ejaculation. For many men, this means abstaining from sex and masturbation completely.

But that's not the only way to go about retaining semen. For others, semen retention is about learning to orgasm without ejaculating (yep, an ejaculate-free climax is entirely possible).

The men who adhere to the practice believe that ejaculating weakens health and that semen retention delivers a bunch of physical, mental and spiritual benefits, and improves overall well-being.

There’s also the idea that semen retention has the power to boost testosterone. This is because ejaculating releases testosterone, ergo holding on to it means it stays circulating in the body. 

It might seem like a fairly new trend, but semen retention actually has a very deep history.

It’s rooted in Taoism and Hinduism, both of which held strong beliefs about conserving semen.

The former suggested that retained semen could be recirculated to the brain to ward off ageing [2]. The latter supported the notion that men needed to keep their semen to get closer to God, and that losing it was the biggest hurdle in their way [3].

What happens to sperm if you don't ejaculate?

Sperm is being produced by the body constantly. It’s made by the testes and stored in the epididymis (a tube behind the testes) until you ejaculate.

Sperm retention won’t lead to a build-up of the stuff. If you don’t ejaculate, your body simply reabsorbs the sperm, which prevents congestion in the reproductive system. 

Sperm reabsorption is a totally natural process that doesn’t affect your health, fertility or sex drive. 

Are there any benefits to semen retention?

Semen retention supporters claim numerous benefits to emotional, spiritual and physical health. They say the practice can:

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve sleep
  • Lift energy levels
  • Support mental health
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Lift mood and contribute to general happiness
  • Improve self-control
  • Amplify brain function
  • Boost memory, concentration and mental clarity
  • Build strength
  • Support hair and muscle growth
  • Enhance sperm quality
  • Improve physical performance
  • Enhance sense of purpose
  • Increase motivation
  • Better relationships
  • Help with erectile dysfunction
  • Boost testosterone

The research on semen retention benefits, however, is incredibly limited. Instead, most of them seem to be purely anecdotal. 

One area where there could be proven benefit to avoiding ejaculation is sperm quality, as some research has shown that abstinence could have a positive effect on sperm. 

A 2017 literature review on the effects of abstinence on semen analysis stated that brief periods of abstinence could improve sperm motility (movement), morphology (size and shape) and DNA fragmentation (its ability to carry DNA packages), whereas longer periods may boost semen value and sperm count [4].

That being said, the review did conclude that the evidence is conflicting and it’s too early to make any clear recommendations.

Is there a link between semen retention and testosterone levels?

Besides its myriad health claims, many supporters of semen retention say it has the power to boost testosterone levels.

However, experts aren’t quite sure.

There have been numerous studies conducted over the years that have examined the link between ejaculation and its effect on testosterone levels, and the results have been incredibly mixed. 

Select research does support the idea that ejaculation can lower testosterone.

One study from 2001 found that abstaining from sex for 3 weeks produced elevated testosterone levels, while another concluded that abstaining for a week resulted in a 145.7% increase in testosterone [5][6].

But other studies have found that testosterone levels rise significantly immediately after ejaculation, and a number have discovered almost no effect on testosterone levels [7][8][9].

The thing all of these studies have in common, though, is that any impact on testosterone levels is very temporary. Baseline testosterone levels tend to return to normal a few minutes after sex. 

Plus, the research that determined a 145.7% increase in testosterone levels found that on the eighth day of the study, testosterone levels decreased quite significantly [1]. (This study was also retracted in 2021.)

Then there are numerous studies pointing to the fact that semen retention could actually be detrimental.

All of this is to say that, so far, there's insufficient clinical data to support the idea that semen retention can boost testosterone. However, signs indicate that it probably doesn’t.

Are there any risks?

Generally speaking, semen retention may not present any issues. Your body may just reabsorb the sperm.

But, once again, the research is pretty contradictory, and there is a bit of research indicating that regular ejaculation could be beneficial for your health.

A few studies show that regular ejaculation lowers your risk of heart disease and prostate cancer and supports a healthy immune system [10][11][12].

There’s also some evidence that having sex infrequently can increase the risk of ED [13].

There’s conflicting evidence around sperm quality, too.

While there was one review concluding that abstinence could have a positive effect on sperm condition, several have found that avoiding ejaculation could be detrimental to semen quality [1].

Several experts have also called out the spread of misinformation about men’s health on social media, particularly when it comes to semen retention.

They say that the lack of accuracy, clinical data and intervention from healthcare professionals could contribute to potentially harmful outcomes — financially, mentally, physically and emotionally [1][14].

Lastly, semen retention may lead to epididymal hypertension (a.k.a blue balls), which is testicular pain that occurs when someone is aroused but doesn’t orgasm or ejaculate.

It’s caused by blood building up in the testicles during sexual arousal. The pain can range from mild to severe, but it usually passes pretty quickly.

How often should you ejaculate?

So, what’s the bottom line? If the research isn’t quite conclusive around ejaculation, and there’s no definitive answer as to whether avoiding it is harmful or helpful, is there a healthy amount of ejaculation you should be aiming for?

There’s actually no right or wrong response here or any amount of ejaculation that’s considered normal. 

Numerous factors come into play, including age, libido, frequency of sexual activity, health status and, quite simply, individual preferences.

For some men, ejaculating multiple times a day is standard, while for others, they may be quite happy never doing so. It ultimately comes down to understanding your own needs.

If you do have any health concerns, though — be it around ejaculation, sperm health or something else entirely — always reach out to your GP. 

How to maintain and boost testosterone

We know now that there’s very little scientific evidence backing up the supposed benefits of semen retention — particularly when it comes to supporting optimal testosterone levels and possibly even raising them.

If not by holding on to your semen, what can you do to help your T levels?

Here are some proven ways to keep them in balance. 

First up, get checked

If you notice any of the signs of low testosterone — such as low sex drive, ED, depression or fatigue — make an appointment with your GP to have your hormone levels checked.

They may find that your testosterone levels are low and, in that case, put together a plan to help you get them back on track

Address your diet

Stick to nutritious foods like whole grains, fruits and veg (particularly dark green varieties), legumes, fish and healthy fats (such as those found in olive oil), and try and prioritise meals made at home [15].

Takeaway and processed foods, as well as those high in sugar and trans fats, may negatively affect your hormone health [16].


Exercise is great for overall health, and may even have a positive effect on testosterone levels.

Some research shows that physical activity — particularly resistance training — can actually boost testosterone immediately afterwards [17].

Get enough sleep

Not getting adequate rest has been associated with low testosterone, so if sleep quality is an issue, addressing it could help [18].

To encourage a decent night’s rest, create a sleep-conducive environment in the bedroom (cold, dark and quiet), avoid screens, caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants before bed, and try some relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing before hitting the hay

Reduce stress

Chronic high stress is also linked to lower testosterone levels [19].

All of the lifestyle changes we’ve run through already — improving your diet, exercising and getting enough sleep — can help manage stress, but see if you can squeeze things like meditation, deep breathing and more downtime into your week, too

Curb drinking

Too much booze may contribute to lower testosterone, so try and keep it to a low to moderate amount each week [20].

Try a supplement

You could also take a supplement that’s directly targeted towards upping your testosterone.

Pilot’s very own Testosterone Support helps combat the many signs of low testosterone and contains a potent combo of vitamins and minerals that support testosterone production.

It’s also delivered to your home, making it a powerful and uber-convenient solution.

Combat ED with Pilot

If you’ve considered or tried semen retention as a means for treating erectile dysfunction, and are either unconvinced or not having much luck, consider a dedicated erectile dysfunction treatment like Pilot’s. 

As part of your treatment, you’ll access limitless free follow-ups with a Pilot practitioner, and you can either opt for ongoing or on-the-spot treatments that are delivered right to your door. 

Image credit: Getty Images

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