Unhealthy sperm often overlooked as cause of lost pregnancies

1-14-2019 sperm feature human sperm
Image credit: Charles H. Muller/University of Washington.

Doctors often recommend women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss, usually defined as three or more losses, undergo testing to try and identify any reason for them. But their male partners, despite the critical importance of sperm in successful pregnancies, usually aren’t similarly screened.

According to a new study, though, the sperm of men whose partners’ experience pregnancy losses have increased DNA damage—which is linked to bad outcomes in pregnancy. In addition, men in partnerships experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss have altered hormone levels.

Sperm with fragmented DNA might be able to fertilize an egg and initiate a pregnancy, because they still have the right number of chromosomes to being the process, [chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Columbia, Zed] Williams says. The paternal DNA, though, isn’t called into action until later in the process. “Once the male genome is activated, that’s when you start seeing problems,” he says. “Women can get pregnant, and then have pregnancy loss shortly after.”


Our understanding of sperm and pregnancy has changed—it used to be thought that, if a pregnancy could occur, the sperm was healthy. “It was sort of thought if a woman gets pregnant, they could check off the male side as causing problems—but we’re not sure that’s the case,” Williams says.

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Read full, original post: Unhealthy sperm can play a role in lost pregnancies

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