Study Finds Stress May Lead to Weaker Sperm

Medically reviewed in January 2022

Sometimes it's the little things in life that add up to a whole lot of stress. Or maybe you're facing a larger crisis that's sending your stress levels through the roof. By now you probably know that kind of tension isn't good for your total health. And according to one small study, whatever's got you feeling frayed may also be harming your sperm.

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Stress and Your Reproductive Health
Past studies have looked at the connection between stress and semen quality but had inconsistent results. So researchers at Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, N.J., designed a study to see how stress affects reproductive health among healthy guys in the general population. The scientists surveyed 193 healthy men in northern California between the ages of 38 to 49 about their overall life stress and work stress. Then they analyzed the men’s sperm. After adjusting for traits like age, race and education, they found that men with higher levels of stress had lower sperm counts and more abnormal sperm.

This type of study couldn’t prove that stress is what lowers sperm counts -- another factor could be involved -- and they didn’t assess whether the weakened sperm leads to impaired fertility. But one theory is certain stress-related hormones reduce testosterone production and may even damage the cells that produce sperm. And animal research has hinted that a mother who faces stress during pregnancy may have sons with poorer sperm quality. The researchers also said that it's important to consider the kind of stress a man faces. Of note, they didn't find a connection between work stress and sperm quality, but said that stress from traumatic life events played a more important role.

Steps to Beat Stress and Protect Your Sperm
Planning to have a baby with your partner? If so, you've got to do your best to put stress in check so you can ensure your sperm is ready for the swim ahead. Here are a couple ways to decompress and give your sperm a boost:

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