Just because a woman cannot conceive does not always mean that it is her fault since stress can damage men’s fertility, as well. Infertility among men can be a very — ahem — touchy subject because most men are less likely to seek a physician’s help if they are stressed or ill. This is not just speculation or some bar talk.
According to WebMD, a survey of 1,100 men for the American Academy of Family Physicians showed that about 85 percent of the men who surveyed said that they would seek medical treatment if they are ill. Most of the sample — 92 percent — said that they would wait a few days to see if the illness goes away before seeing a doctor. Men with infertility problems may also have a fear of having their masculinity judged, which decreases their likelihood of seeking help.
In men, stress can interfere with hormones that affect sperm production, motility and development, which reduces the odds of sperm to reach and fertilize the ovum. The American Fertility Association (AFA) states that infertility can also cause stress, which leads to a never-ending cycle of emotional drama, including depression, low self-esteem and relationship problems with their significant other.
There is strong evidence that shows the correlation between sperm quality and quantity and the amount of stress men have. A 2008 study among 744 men that was conducted at the University of Massachusetts showed that men who had more than two stressful events in their lives had a significantly lower sperm count than men who had fewer than two stressful events in their lives.
While current research provides much evidence in supporting the causes of women’s infertility, there is little spotlight on how stress can damage fertility in men. However, recent research from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Bydgoszcz, Poland, may shed some light. Researcher Jolanta Guz and her colleagues found that oxidative stress is a major factor in determining the amount and quality of sperm and accounts for half of all male infertility cases. Oxidative stress weakens the body’s ability to offset or neutralize the imbalance of free radical production, such as DNA and cell membrane damage. Therefore, it can decrease sperm motility, concentration and shape, which lead to a weaker chance of fertilizing the egg cell. In their report published July 12, 2013 in PLOS One, Guz and her colleagues wrote that abnormal sperm show high levels of oxidative stress, such as “excessive level of reactive oxygen species” and lower antioxidant content.
There is no single best way to deal with the damage from stress and fertility issues for men, although physicians have recommended regular exercise, a healthy diet and more open communication with their women. Some men may find that eating more dietary fiber, fruits and vegetables lift their mood. Some may find physical activity, such as jogging, yoga or salsa dancing, to calm the mind. Whatever the method may be, every man should find a way to deal with the cause of stress. Knowing is half the battle.