The Decline of Fertility:
In the US, approximately 1 in 6 couples seek medical assistance for their fertility. Both male and female factors contribute to the lowering of fertility potential among couples. Recent published data indicate that semen quality has declined significantly over the last several decades. Even in young men, sperm concentration is reported to fall by an average of 2% every year. A central feature of semen quality is the oxidative status of the male reproductive tract. Sperm health critically depends on a low oxidative environment in the male reproductive tract to support normal sperm development and storage in the testes. Oxidative stress adversely affects the molecular components of the sperm cells such as the membrane lipid, protein and DNA. The net effect of this collateral damage is reduced sperm motility, concentration and the DNA integrity. However, in some men, oxidative stress could cause DNA damage without appearing to affect sperm quality as assessed by a routine semen analysis. A large study in couples seeking fertility assistance in France revealed the presence of sperm oxidative stress in about 60% of men.
Causes of Sperm Oxidative Stress:
There are many factors that cause sperm oxidative stress. These can vary considerably from person to person. Typically, a man’s reproductive system takes about 74 days to produce mature sperm. As a man is continually producing sperm, the quality of sperm (or sperm health) will be related to his behavior over that time period. Poor diet, too little or too much exercise, smoking and environmental exposures such as heat, radiation or toxic chemicals can all lower sperm health. Poor overall health can also influence sperm quality. Strong scientific research now suggests the male reproductive tract only functions optimally in a normal redox environment.
Fortunately, it is possible to improve the quality of your sperm by changes in lifestyle and other behaviors. To learn more, read our “Guide for a Successful Pregnancy”.
If you are concerned with your semen quality, a simple semen analysis can reveal some information concerning the quality of your sperm and fertility potential. There are typically four important parameters that are routinely assessed by your healthcare specialist to determine the fertilizing potential of the sperm cells: motility, morphology, concentration and volume. However, the prognostic value of these assessments is limited. Even if sperm parameters are normal, an underlying issue such as DNA damage may exist, reducing semen quality and fertilizing potential. Assessment of sperm DNA quality is not routinely prescribed by physicians, and is only available at specialized laboratories that are often not covered by medical insurance.
Sperm DNA Integrity Tests:
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