It should come as no surprise to know that sperm health is essential to creating a healthy pregnancy. Our scientists analyse will perform routine analyses to help determine whether the sperm being used in your cycle is within the normal parameters as outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
These tests cover the concentration (number of sperm), motility (how many sperm are swimming normally) and morphology (what the sperm look like physically). We will also importantly check the levels of DNA fragmentation in your sperm, something that is often overlooked yet at the same time, is critical for a successful IVF cycle.
The integrity of the sperm’s genetic information is essential for normal fertilisation, embryo development and the continuing growth and development of a healthy baby. Previous studies have shown that there is a common link between the amount of DNA damage in a man’s sperm and recurrent miscarriage as well as poor embryo development and reduced fertilisation.
The DNA damage in sperm has been thought to be caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) which in high concentrations can have a negative impact on the DNA in the sperm cell. This can lead to what we refer to as “oxidative stress” where the body’s production of ROS is disproportionate to the level of antioxidants found in the body’s cells.
So, what can cause these high levels of oxidative stress?
What causes oxidative stress?
Factors such as lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors can exacerbate the levels of oxidative stress and disrupt your body’s normal metabolic processes which can cause cell damage. Besides age, a substantial amount of research has shown that environmental factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, pollutants and chemicals can have a significant impact on male fertility.
Is there anything you can do to help reduce the levels of DNA fragmentation?
There certainly are ways you can help reduce DNA fragmentation and improve the quality of your sperm, most of these things are related to lifestyle choices – something that you can absolutely take control of when the current situation feels as though it’s been taken out of your control.
1. Be a quitter
Smoking is well known for having a detrimental effect on your general health and that also includes the health of your sperm. Studies released in the last few years have revealed that male smoking is a significant factor in poor embryo development, poor fertilisation and compromising the quality of an ongoing pregnancy.
At Fertility First, we strongly advise patients to quit if they currently smoke and are undergoing fertility treatment or looking at falling pregnant.
2. Avoid overheating
Research has shown that increasing scrotal temperatures and overheating the testicles will result in higher levels of DNA fragmentation. A study released at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in 2018 showed that over 53% of male participants who wore boxers rather than briefs had a higher sperm concentration, lower DNA damage and increased motility.
3. Eat well and look after yourself
There are ways to help give your body that extra boost it needs to help reduce the levels of oxidative stress and minimise any DNA damage. You can do this by simply eating a balanced diet consisting of fruit and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, ensure you get regular exercise, limiting the amount of processed foods, especially ones that are high in fat and sugar, reducing exposure to pollution and chemicals, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking.
Foods that have ben shown to help improve the quality of sperm include seafood (zinc), nuts and berries (antioxidants), mushrooms and oily fish (vitamin D) and green leafy vegetables (Vitamin E, B12, C and folate).
Changing your lifestyle and avoiding habits that put your body at risk is something you can actively do to help improve your chances of conceiving during this unprecedented time.
Fertility First has recognised the importance of sperm health when it comes to fertility and healthy pregnancies and has been testing for sperm DNA damage in patients for close to 15 years.
Our clinic will perform routine testing on all our male patients, including potential donors before fertility treatment commences to give you the best chance of being able to achieve a healthy pregnancy.