Reduced Testicular Steroidogenesis and Increased Semen Oxidative Stress in Male Partners as Novel Markers of Recurrent Miscarriage

Clin Chem. 2019 Jan;65(1):161-169. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2018.289348.


Background: Recurrent pregnancy loss, (RPL) affecting 1%-2% of couples, is defined as ≥3 consecutive pregnancy losses before 20-week' gestation. Women with RPL are routinely screened for etiological factors, but routine screening of male partners is not currently recommended. Recently it has been suggested that sperm quality is reduced in male partners of women with RPL, but the reasons underlying this lower quality are unclear. We hypothesized that these men may have underlying impairments of reproductive endocrine and metabolic function that cause reductions in sperm quality.

Methods: After ethical approval, reproductive parameters were compared between healthy controls and male partners of women with RPL. Semen reactive oxygen species (ROS) were measured with a validated inhouse chemiluminescent assay. DNA fragmentation was measured with the validated Halosperm method.

Results: Total sperm motility, progressive sperm motility, and normal morphology were all reduced in the RPL group vs controls. Mean ±SE morning serum testosterone (nmol/L) was 15% lower in RPL than in controls (controls, 19.0 ± 1.0; RPL, 16.0 ± 0.8; P < 0.05). Mean ±SE serum estradiol (pmol/L) was 16% lower in RPL than in controls (controls, 103.1 ± 5.7; RPL, 86.5 ± 3.4; P < 0.01). Serum luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone were similar between groups. Mean ±SE ROS (RLU/sec/106 sperm) were 4-fold higher in RPL than in controls (controls, 2.0 ± 0.6; RPL, 9.1 ± 4.1; P < 0.01). Mean ±SE sperm DNA fragmentation (%) was 2-fold higher in RPL than in controls (controls, 7.3 ± 1.0; RPL, 16.4 ± 1.5; P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Our data suggest that male partners of women with RPL have impaired reproductive endocrine function, increased levels of semen ROS, and sperm DNA fragmentation. Routine reproductive assessment of the male partners may be beneficial in RPL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Habitual*
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Semen / metabolism*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Steroids / biosynthesis*
  • Testis / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Steroids