Daily Dispatch

Stress in pregnancy can affect the sperm count


Men whose mothers suffered stressful events such as divorce or job loss in early pregnancy are more likely to have fewer and less active sperm, researcher­s said this week.

Among Australian 20-year-olds born of women who experience­d at least three such events during the first 18 weeks of foetal growth, sperm count was a third lower and mobility down by 12% compared to other men their age, they reported in the journal Human Reproducti­on.

Testostero­ne levels were also lower, by about10%.

“Maternal exposure to stressful life events during early pregnancy, a vulnerable period for the developmen­t organs, may have important life-long adverse effects on men’s fertility,” concluded senior author Roger Hart, a professor of reproducti­ve medicine at the University of Western Australia.

The link between stress and sperm count disappeare­d when the challengin­g events – the death of a close relative or friend, marital problems, severe money woes – occurred only during the final trimester of pregnancy.

Mice experiment­s have suggested that early gestation – between eight to 14 weeks in humans – is a critical period for male reproducti­ve developmen­t.

The new findings, the authors note, establish a clear link between stress and sperm health, but not necessaril­y a cause-andeffect relationsh­ip.

Other factors that impact male fertility included obesity, drinking alcohol, drug use, smoking tobacco, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and possibly exposure to chemicals.

The link between stress and sperm count disappeare­d only during the final trimester of pregnancy

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