STRESSED mums are more likely to have infertile sons, a study suggests.
It shows men born to mothers exposed to traumatic events in early pregnancy – such as the death of a loved one, divorce or job loss – had a third lower sperm count.
Men whose mums faced traumatic events in early pregnancy have been found to have a lower sperm count[/caption]
The quality of their semen was also inferior and they struggled with reduced testosterone levels.
Experts from the University of Western Australia quizzed almost 3,000 expectant mums.
They then followed up 643 of their sons when they reached the age of 20, taking sperm and blood samples and scanning their testicles.
Blokes whose mums suffered three stressful events during their first 18 weeks of pregnancy had lower fertility.
Experts think shocking events may alter levels of key hormones needed for male sex organs to develop.
STRESS ‘HITS SONS’
Researcher Roger Hart, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia, said: “We found that men who had been exposed to three or more stressful life events during early gestation had an average of 36 per cent reduction in the number of sperm in their ejaculate, a 12 per cent reduction in sperm motility and an 11 per cent reduction in testosterone levels compared to those men who were not exposed to any stressful life event during that period.”
The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Previous research has found human sperm counts have declined dramatically – with a 50 per cent global reduction in quality in the past 80 years.
Prof Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at Sheffield University, said: “This is a very elegant and well conducted study which fits the theory that one of the most critical phases for determining sperm quality in the adult male is before he is even born.
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“However, we should be cautious about the interpretation of this data as the authors have only described an association and not “cause and effect”.”
Around one in six UK couples struggle to conceive.
Dr Jane Stewart, Chair of the British Fertility Society said: “There is accruing evidence of the effects of intrauterine life on adult health. This association of stressful events and male reproductive function may be a further piece of evidence.”
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