Does Stress Affect Semen Quality?

An article by Lund et al in the Sept 24 issue of Andrology explores the relationship between perceived stress and Male fertility. 

644 men were assessed with respect to “perceived stress” as measured by the 10 item version of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) with a range of 0-40.  (Higher reflects more stress).   Subjects' fertility was evaluated ty the Trak Male Fertility Testing System with measurements performed on 2 samples for each subject.  The Trak Male Fertility test measures semen volume, sperm density and total sperm count.  The Semen results of men with PSS scores less than 10 were compared with those with scores of 20 or greater.    Results showed NO association between perceived stress and male fertility.


Blog Author's comments:   This was an interesting paper for its somewhat surprising finding.   Ask any urologist and they will tell you stress can absolutely affect Male fertility.  So are those doctors wrong or misguided?  

Several problems are encountered in this study.  First  is the measurement of “self perceived” stress.  That may not reflect actual stress; certainly not the stress in my patients who cannot sleep, who overeat or indulge in smoking to “calm them down”.    Second is the assessment of fertility by only measuring semen volume and sperm density.   These are only a subset of standard semen parameters evaluated and omits sperm motility and morphology as influencers on fertility.  It also omits any tests of sperm function such as a measurement of sperm capacitation.    In fact, as of the date of this blog, the test kits are unavailable while other take home tests are.   


In my own practice I have anecdotal experience where the stress of the loss of a family member, or loss of a job, or illness in a family has directly correlated with a reduction in fertility.  So, at best, I think this topic deserves more study.

Eric K. Seaman MD Dr. Seaman is a urologist specializing in the field of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Seaman Completed his Male Infertility Fellowship under the direction of Larry I. Lipshultz MD at Baylor College of Medicine Houston in 1996. Since that time he has focused his practice on the sub-subspecialty focus area of Male fertility and infertility.

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