COVID-19 may impact male fertility, study finds

Severe cases of COVID-19 might harm the quality of a man’s sperm and possibly impact his fertility, according to a recent study published in the journal Reproduction.

“This report provides the first direct evidence to date that COVID-19 infection impairs semen quality and male reproductive potential,” the study said.

However, according to CNN, experts not involved in the study were skeptical about the report’s conclusion and urged caution in overgeneralizing the research findings. You can read the CNN story here.

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Confused about the COVID vaccine?

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are getting conflicting information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The World Health Organization recently recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women should not get the vaccine unless the benefits outweigh the potential risks. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine all say that that the vaccines should be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who are eligible for vaccination.

The Harvard Health Letter has posted answers to some basic questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding–or are considering a pregnancy.

“Keep in mind that information is evolving rapidly. Your obstetric provider or medical team can advise you more fully, based on your personal health risks, exposures to the virus that causes COVID-19, and preferences,” the article notes.

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COVID is making fertility benefits more popular

According to an article in Employee Benefit Advisor, the COVID-19 pandemic may have a bright spot: more fertility benefits offered by employers.

The article states that there has been “a surge in utilization” for benefits like egg freezing, adoption, surrogacy and other fertility-related services.

“There seems to be a focus on family and family services, which is perhaps one of the positive things that’s come out of such a difficult time,” says Peter Nieves, chief commercial officer at WINFertility, a fertility and family planning benefits provider. “[Employees] want to make sure they’re preserving their ability to build their family when the timing is more appropriate.”

Be sure to ask your employer about fertility coverage.

 

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Looking for mutated sperm? Go FISH

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are known to cause harsh side effects, including their impact on fertility. Extensive evidence shows that chemotherapy and radiation treatments are genotoxic, meaning they can mutate the DNA and damage chromosomes in patients’ cancerous and noncancerous cells alike. When this occurs in a germline cell, which are egg cells in women and sperm in men, it can lead to serious fetal and birth defects in a resulting pregnancy.

Exacerbating the problem, there are currently no efficient and affordable tests that can be used to track men’s germ cell health by identifying when the sperm are carrying treatment-related chromosomal mutations. But evidence from a new study suggests that this may soon change.

In a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, an international team reported success adapting an established cellular DNA analysis technique called fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to probe sperm DNA for a wide variety of chromosomal defects simultaneously.

“We believe this approach has a wide range of applications in healthcare and family planning, as it can be used to identify environmental exposures that increase the risk for producing chromosomally abnormal sperm that can affect the health of future pregnancies and children for generations to come,” said lead author Andrew Wyrobek.

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Cut sugar to improve reproductive health

If COVID restrictions have turned you toward the cookie jar more often, you’re certainly not alone. But both men and women looking to boost their odds of getting pregnant should consider this: “Research in recent years has shown that consistently high sugar intake can negatively impact both male and female fertility,” says the website Open Access Government.

For example, a study from Boston University discovered that just one sugary soft drink a day reduced conception rates in women by about 25% and in men by about 33%. Some reasons include:

  • PCOS–A high sugar intake is the biggest dietary factor in PCOS, the website says.
  • Egg quality–high blood sugar levels decrease egg quality. A Japanese study found that the more sugar women consumed in the months leading up to an IVF cycle, the poorer their egg quality was.
  • Sperm quality–High blood sugar is linked to higher levels of sperm DNA damage, which can decrease chances of conception and increase the likelihood of miscarriage.

To reduce the impact of sugar on your fertility:

  • Choose whole grain carbohydrates over sugars.
  • Maintain regular exercise.
  • Get sufficient sleep.
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ASRM: COVID vaccines do not increase risk of infertility

In mid-December, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) released recommendations for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In these, it states the following:

“Because COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are not composed of live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies. It should be noted that pregnant and lactating women were excluded from the initial phase III trials of these two vaccines, so specific safety data in these populations are not yet available and further studies are planned. However, the mechanism of action of mRNA vaccines and existing safety data provide reassurance regarding the safety of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines during pregnancy.”

In addition, the FDA “permits the vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding individuals with a requirement that the company engage in post-authorization observational studies in pregnancy.”

You can read more at the ASRM web site. We have also posted vaccine guidelines on our web site. If you have any questions, please contact one of our offices.

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New mechanism underlying male infertility

The sperm tail is essential for male fertility and thus for sexual reproduction. The tail, or flagellum, has to beat in a very precise and coordinated manner to allow progressive swimming of the sperm. Failure to do so can lead to male infertility.

Researchers in Europe now show that one particular enzymatic modification of a protein called glycylation is essential to keep sperm swimming in a straight line. These findings imply that a disruption of this modification could underlie some forms of male infertility in humans.

Why is this discovery important? “This study points to a new mechanism underlying male infertility,” the authors state.

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Lisa would ‘undoubtedly recommend’ RSCNJ

Lisa, a patient of ours, says:

“I would undoubtedly recommend Dr. Ziegler and his staff. It was hard to leave them once we were pregnant and released to our OB. His staff is so sweet and compassionate. We look forward to going back to them for our next one in a few years!”

Thanks to Lisa, and to all the others who have posted comments on our web site. You can read more of them here.

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Cannabis use may reduce pregnancy chances, study finds

Women who use cannabis products could have a more difficult time conceiving a child than women who do not use marijuana, suggests a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

For each monthly cycle, women who had used cannabis products–marijuana or hashish–in the weeks before pregnancy, or who had positive urine tests for cannabis use, while trying to conceive were 41% less likely to conceive than non-users. Similarly, a smaller proportion of cannabis users than non-users became pregnant during the study–42% versus 66%. The study found no differences in miscarriage rates between users and non-users who had achieved pregnancy.

The authors noted that although the findings suggest cannabis could affect women’s fertility, they should be tempered with caution as the study observed a relatively small number of cannabis users. However, the authors say their results suggest that women trying to conceive should exercise caution with cannabis use until more definitive evidence is available.

The study was published online in Human Reproduction.

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Theresa says RSCNJ is ‘100% recommended!’

Our patient Theresa recently posted comments about her experience at RSCNJ.

“All of the doctors and staff here were efficient, friendly and compassionate. Dr. Ziegler is very knowledgeable. The appointments were always great with little to no wait time. Even calling and speaking to staff over the phone was pleasant. 100% recommend!”

Thanks to Theresa and to all the others who have posted comments on our web site.

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