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Do Stressed-Out Men Have Weaker Sperm?

Study does seem to show a link, but impact on fertility isn't clear

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The researchers did not find a connection between work stress, specifically, and the quality of a man's sperm. "It's very possible that the levels of work stress in the men in our study were not high enough to see an effect," Janevic said. She did note that sperm were in worse shape in unemployed men compared to men who had jobs.

Gollenberg, the Shenandoah University professor, said other research has been inconsistent about the question of whether work stress might affect sperm quality.

"Work stress may be a different beast than life events, which are thought to be more traumatic and long-lasting," she said. "Some individuals are greatly affected by work stress, whereas others are able to leave 'work at work.'"

What might be going on biologically? It's not clear how a man's stress might affect his sperm, although scientists suspect that it has something to do with brain chemicals and testosterone. One theory suggests that stress in pregnant mothers could translate to sperm problems in their sons when they encounter stress, decades later.

So, what can stressed-out men do to ensure highly fertile sperm? The new findings don't say.

"We didn't study whether stress reduction can increase chances of conception," Janevic said. "However, stress reduction can contribute to health in various ways, and men can't go wrong to limit stress when possible as part of an overall healthy lifestyle."

Gollenberg pointed out that stress now won't necessarily translate to more sperm troubles now, since it takes about 2.5 months for sperm to develop. "Stress right now will affect semen quality in the next several months," she said.

The study was published online May 29 in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

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