A new study suggests that men may be more prone to encounter fertility issues if their mothers experienced stressful life events early in pregnancy. In comparison to men with mothers who enjoyed stress-free early pregnancies, men whose mothers suffered one or more stressful life events were more probable to have lower testosterone, lower overall sperm count, and sperm less capable of traveling through the female reproductive system to get to an egg.
Researchers observed data on reproductive hormones and sperm quality and quantity for the study, for 643 men aged 20 years.
In general, 63 percent, or 407 men, had mothers who endured at least one stressful life occurrence early in pregnancy, such as the death of a close relative or friend, separation, divorce, marital issues, job loss, money problems, pregnancy complications, or a residential move.
Mothers of 87 men have suffered at least three stressful life events early in pregnancy. Those mothers who reported no stressful life events early in pregnancy were more prone to have a healthy weight and be affluent.
Normally, pregnancy lasts approximately 40 weeks, and babies born after 37 weeks are viewed as full-term. Researchers asked mothers about any stressful life events they encountered in the prior four weeks at two moments in pregnancy, more precisely at 18 and 34 weeks of gestation.
Stressful life events suffered later in pregnancy were not clearly linked with sons’ fertility in adulthood.
Dr. Roger Hart, senior author of the study and a fertility researcher at the University of Western Australia says that the health of the couple at the moment of conception, also the health of the woman during pregnancy, has a significant effect on the health of the baby after birth, during childhood, and into adulthood.
Dr. Hart recommends couples planning a family to conceive when both the female and male partner are as healthy as possible, both in their physical and mental health.
The biological link between stressful life experiences in early pregnancy and male infertility is not entirely understood, Hart and his team wrote in Human Reproduction. However, weeks 8 to 14 of pregnancy are a crucial time frame for male reproductive development, the researchers say, and it is probable that stress exposure during this period might disturb the normal development process.
A limitation of the research is that not all people react the same way to the same stress factors, and scientists had no data on how women felt about particular events that the study team labeled as stressful life experiences. Factors such as maternal education, socioeconomic status, and lack of insurance could all affect how women deal with stressful events.
Even so, the results add to the proof suggesting that it is crucial to handle stress during pregnancy, Dr. Muhammad Imran Omar, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom, said.
Dr. Omar said that stressful life experiences are linked to physiological, metabolic, and hormonal changes in the body. These changes also happen in pregnancy and can affect the development of the offspring, Dr. Omar added.