Prolonged stress, such as war, can reduce fertility in men

“Mental stress is known to have an adverse effect on fertility... This study shows that prolonged stress can have an effect on sperm quality."

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June 8, 2018 06:44
1 minute read.
A doctor prepares eggs and sperm for an attempt at artificial insemination

A doctor prepares eggs and sperm for an attempt at artificial insemination. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALESSANDRO BIANCHI)

Going into battle and enduring other types of prolonged stress can harm men’s sperm quality, according to a new study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.

The study, just presented at the International Summit on Assisted Reproduction and Genetics in Tel Aviv, shows that more than a third (37%) of sperm samples taken during a stressful period were found to have low motility.

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“Mental stress is known to have an adverse effect on fertility, but there is little research on the impact of stress on sperm quality,” said Dr. Eliahu Levitas, a member of BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and director of the In-Vitro Fertilization Unit at Soroka. “This study shows that prolonged stress can have an effect on sperm quality.”

In general, the probability of weak motility – ability to move and swim – in sperm samples taken during periods of prolonged stress was 47% higher.

Weak motility makes it less likely that the sperm will successfully fertilize an egg.

The study included 10,536 samples donated during quiet periods between 2009 and 2017, which were compared to 659 sperm samples taken during and up to two months after two military conflicts between Israel and Gaza in 2012 and 2014. The subjects’ average age was 32, and 44% were smokers.

Levitas, who is also director of Soroka’s sperm bank, explained: “Our reasoning was that even men who heard incoming-rocket warning sirens during a conflict experienced stress throughout the day over a longer period. We were surprised to discover that there is a connection between the security situation and the sperm counts.”



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