Men whose mothers were exposed to stressful life events while they were in the first 18 weeks of pregnancy may have reduced sperm counts when they become adults, according to a study published in Human Reproduction.
Research has shown that the first few months of pregnancy is when male reproductive organs are at their most vulnerable stage of development. This current study of 643 young men aged 20 found that those who were exposed to at least one stressful life event during early gestation (0-18 weeks) had worse sperm quality and lower testosterone concentrations than those who were not exposed, or who were exposed during later gestation, between 18-34 weeks.
The findings come from the Western Australia’s Raine Study, a multi-generational study that recruited nearly 3,000 women in their 18th week of pregnancy in the period between May 1989 and November 1991. The mothers completed questionnaires at 18 and 34 weeks’ gestation, and each survey included questions about stressful life events during the preceding four months of pregnancy. These events included death of a close relative or friend, separation or divorce or marital problems, problems with children, mother’s or partner’s involuntary job loss, money problems, pregnancy concerns, moving home or other problems.
The researchers found that the men who had been exposed to three or more stressful life events during early gestation had an average of 36% reduction in the number of sperm in their ejaculate, a 12% reduction in sperm motility and an 11% reduction in testosterone levels compared to those men who were not exposed to any stressful life event during that period.
“This suggests that maternal exposure to stressful life events during early pregnancy, a vulnerable period for the development of male reproductive organs, may have important life-long adverse effects on men’s fertility,” said senior author Roger Hart, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia and medical director of the Fertility Specialists of Western Australia IVF unit.
Hart said that exposure to stressful life events during early pregnancy was unlikely to cause a man to be infertile by itself, but when added to other factors, it could contribute to an increased risk of infertility.
Testicular tissue samples obtained from 189 males who were facing procedures that could imperil fertility were cryopreserved at one university, proving the feasibility of centralized processing and freezing of testicular tissue obtained from academic medical centers scattered around the world.
An estimated 2,000 U.S. boys and young men each year receive treatments or have cancers or blood disorders that place them at risk for infertility. While older youths who have undergone puberty can bank their sperm prior to undergoing sterilizing doses of chemotherapy or radiation, there have been scant fertility preservation options for younger boys. However, some older adolescents and young men are too sick or stressed to bank sperm. For patients with no sperm to bank or who are too sick or stressed to bank sperm, the experimental procedure of freezing testicular tissue in anticipation that future cell- or tissue-based therapies can generate sperm is the only option.
Recent research in experimental models indicates that such testicular tissue biopsies contain stem cells, hinting at the potential of generating sperm from biopsied tissue.
June is designated LGBTQ Pride Month, but here at RSCNJ we are proud to serve the LGBTQ community all year long.
At RSCNJ, we go beyond helping infertile couples. We also offer LGBTQ family building services. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals and couples who dream of having a family can often do so with our assisted reproductive technologies.
We offer our LGBTQ patients the same fertility treatment options that we offer to all patients. To learn more—and to view a video with one of our happy LGBTQ couples—please visit our LGBTQ Community Family Building web page.
A happy patient of ours writes:
“RSCNJ turned us into a family. After many cycles, many years, a lot of tears and heartbreak, we gave birth to our son last week. We couldn’t have done this without the help of our doctor and his team. We are so grateful and thankful for a doctor who didn’t give up on us, even when we wanted to throw in the towel. The staff is so friendly and professional. I highly recommend this practice.”
Thanks and congratulations to this family, and to all the others who have posted their reviews of our practice, which you can read here.
New York Senator and U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand recently proposed requiring insurance companies to cover expensive fertility treatments, part of a “Family Bill of Rights” that would also help with adoption and medical care.
“My new proposal, the Family Bill of Rights, will make all families stronger – regardless of who you are or what your zip code is – with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
Read more about her proposal here. What do you think about her idea? Share your thoughts and opinions below.
Nearly one out of every eight couples in the U.S. are affected by infertility. During National Infertility Awareness Week, in April, Good Morning America put the spotlight on infertility stories to help demystify and destigmatize all paths to parenthood.
In one segment GMA spoke with Amanda Lesesne, a director at Progyny, a company that works with other companies to offer fertility benefits for employees. She also been on her own journey trying to get pregnant for the past six years.
You can read her story, and her suggested questions to ask your employer, here.
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association understands that it’s important to set realistic goals and develop an awareness of stressors and stress when dealing with infertility. That’s why they have a web page devoted to helping you do just that.
The page includes such strategies as:
- Coping techniques
- Grieving and growing
- Meditation and relaxation techniques
- Tips for handling holidays
We recommend you take a look at these if you need help managing your stress. Let us know how they helped, and if you have other ideas for coping with the stress of infertility.
Assisted hatching, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, is a laboratory procedure, sometimes done along with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. During IVF, the fertilized eggs are monitored for three to six days as they develop into embryos. The best embryo is then transferred into the woman’s uterus or frozen for future use.
While the embryo develops, a group of cells that make up a protective shell (zona pellucida) surround it. The embryo naturally breaks out of this shell as it grows. Sometimes, the doctor may ask the laboratory to make a small “crack” in the outer shell of the embryo right before it is placed into the woman’s body. This is called assisted hatching, and the hope is that it might help the embryo expand, implant into the uterine wall, and finally lead to a pregnancy.
Assisted hatching is especially beneficial for older women and for women who previously have not achieved pregnancy with IVF. Several studies have reported that the pregnancy rate for these women increased from 19 to 44 percent when using assisted hatching in combination with IVF.
To learn more about assisted hatching, visit our web site. And if you have any questions, please contact us for more information.
Women are often the focus when a couple has trouble getting pregnant, but men are the primary reason for infertility in up to half of all cases. Male fertility problems include low sperm count, sperm abnormalities and low testosterone levels.
“The promising news is, various lifestyle factors have been shown to support male fertility and improve chances of conception,” according to a recent article on the CNN web site. “But this requires men to be proactive about their role in conceiving a baby.”
What can men do to be proactive? You can read the article here.
When a woman is unable to conceive or have a full-term pregnancy after already having had children without difficulty before, it is called secondary infertility. According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, “It is a diagnosis that comes with its own set of stigma and support needs.”
But couples with secondary infertility often receive far less social support from others than couples who have primary infertility, because the couple already has a child or children. “But the need for support should not be ignored. A couple can be extraordinarily thankful for their existing child and still long for more children,” RESOLVE states.
For tips on when to see a specialist and how to get the support you need for secondary infertility, see the RESOLVE web site. And if you have questions about treatments, please contact our office for a free phone consultation.
William Ziegler, DO, FACOG
Alan Martinez, MD
Virginia Mensah, MD,FACOG