Stress May Contribute To Male Infertility by Affecting Sperm Concentration, Motility and Morphology

stress and male infertility

A recent study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, indicates that perceived stress and stressful life events, but not work-related stress, are associated with semen quality such as sperm concentration, motility and morphology.

According to a recent review article in Nature Reviews Urology a close relationship seems to exist between the testes and the stress system. Psychological stress is linked to reduced paternity, abnormal semen parameters and decreased spermatogenesis. As stress is also associated with a decrease in free testosterone levels, this in turn may have a knock-on effect on spermatogenesis  (Nat Rev Urol. 2015; 12:373).

In the Fertility and Sterility study, Teresa Janevic and colleagues from the Rutgers School of Public Health, New Brunswick, New Jersey assessed 193 men as part of the study of the environment and reproduction at the Kaiser Foundation health plan in the Oakland, California, area.

The authors found an inverse association between perceived stress score and sperm concentration. In addition, they report that men who experienced stressful life events in the past year had a lower percentage of motile sperm and a lower percentage of sperm of normal morphology.

This is first study of semen quality using three dimensions of stress, and where life stress was measured both subjectively (Perceived Stress Scale) and objectively (Life Events Inventory). It appeared that the Perceived Stress Scale, not previously used in studies of semen quality, best captured the association between life stress and semen quality.

The authors suggest that stress may affect semen quality via neuroendocrine factors influencing spermatogenesis. Increased levels of glucocorticoids, associated with stress may contribute to decreased rates of testosterone excretion from Leydig cells, responsible for spermatogenesis. Glucocorticoids may also induce apoptosis of Leydig cells, thus reducing the total number of cells.

Source: Fertil Steril, 2014 Aug;102(2):530-8. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.04.021. Epub 2014 May 23.
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