Recurrent or repeated miscarriage is defined as the loss of three or more pregnancies before 20 weeks of gestation.
For decades, miscarriage was believed to relate to the woman’s ability to carry a pregnancy to term. However, recent studies have revealed that frequent miscarriages can be associated with poor quality of sperm. Recent studies have shown that, compared to healthy couples, women with recurrent miscarriages have male partners whose sperm shows increased levels of DNA damage.
In addition to having a reduction in serum testosterone and estrogen levels, these men have reduced total and progressive sperm motility and atypical sperm morphology. Furthermore, the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the semen samples of these men are significantly higher than those in healthy counterparts.
Sperm DNA plays an important role in placenta formation. A healthy placenta is necessary for fetal survival. Thus, it is obvious that increased sperm DNA damage can impact pregnancy outcomes by negatively affecting placental health.
Also, a low level of testosterone can negatively impact sperm health by altering spermatogenesis (the process of sperm cell production and development). This can lead to structural and functional abnormalities in sperm, which then can increase the chance of recurrent miscarriages.
What are the frequent sources of ROS in semen?
Production of ROS in sperm cells can be induced by several factors, including:
- excessive consumption of alcohol can increase the level of certain metabolites that are responsible for increased ROS production.
- smoking can induce ROS production by increasing lipid peroxidation and reducing cellular antioxidant levels.
- Varicocele, which is defined as an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Men with varicocele have higher numbers of sperms with chromatin-related abnormalities, which can be due to increased ROS-induced oxidative stress.
- Bacterial or viral infections in the male reproductive tract can increase the production of ROS.
- Obesity is considered an important trigger of ROS production in sperm cells, which is most probably due to an increased rate of metabolism. The high level of ROS in obese men can impair spermatogenesis, leading to deterioration in sperm quality.
- Aging is another important factor associated with increased ROS production and reduced antioxidant capacity. The resultant oxidative stress can impair sperm DNA integrity, leading to the production of poor-quality sperm.
- Certain environmental factors, such as air pollutants, can increase ROS production in sperm cells, which can subsequently reduce sperm quality and quantity.
Can Antioxidant Male Fertility Supplements Protect Sperm?
Studies have shown that taking dietary supplements with antioxidants, such as Fertilaid, Countboost, Motilityboost , can reduce ROS damage to sperm. Antioxidants protect against ROS-caused oxidative stress and can keep DNA in sperm healthy.
Damaged sperm are far more involved in recurrent pregnancy loss than previously thought. Protecting them from too many reactive oxygen species can not only help you get pregnant in the first place—it may help you carry your baby to term.
- Jayasena CN, Radia UK, Figueiredo M, et al. Reduced Testicular Steroidogenesis and Increased Semen Oxidative Stress in Male Partners as Novel Markers of Recurrent Miscarriage. Clinical Chemistry. Published Online January 2019. http://clinchem.aaccjnls.org/content/65/1/161
- Science Daily. 2019. Recurrent miscarriage linked to faulty sperm. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190104103950.htm