Semen quality in fertile men in relation to psychosocial stress

Fertil Steril. 2010 Mar 1;93(4):1104-11. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.12.018. Epub 2009 Feb 24.


Objective: To examine the association between stressful life events and semen parameters.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis in a pregnancy cohort study.

Setting: Prenatal clinics in five U.S. cities.

Patient(s): Fertile men (n = 744) in the Study for Future Families, a cohort study of pregnant women and their partners.

Intervention(s): None.

Main outcome measure(s): Sperm concentration, percent motile, and percent normal morphology and classification above/below World Health Organization (WHO) cutoffs for semen quality.

Result(s): After adjusting for confounders, men reporting 2+ recent stressful life events had an increased risk of being classified below WHO thresholds for "normal" defined by concentration, motility, and morphology criteria compared with men reporting <2 stressful life events (odds ratio [OR] = 2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.18, 3.61; OR = 1.54; 95% CI, 1.04, 2.29; OR = 1.93; 95% CI, 1.02, 3.66 for concentration, motility and morphology, respectively). Men experiencing 2+ stressful life events had lower sperm concentration (log scale, beta = -0.25; 95% CI, -0.38, -0.11) and lower percent motile sperm (beta = -1.95; 95% CI, -3.98, 0.07), but percent normal morphology was less affected.

Conclusion(s): These results suggest that stressful life events may be associated with decreased semen quality in fertile men. The experience of psychosocial stress may be a modifiable factor in the development of idiopathic infertility.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fertility* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Semen Analysis / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Sperm Motility / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult