It's susceptible to DNA fragmentation, which can increase the likelihood of miscarriages
18 July 2019| Last updated on 21 July 2019
Are you facing a problem while trying to conceive? It could be due to DNA fragmentation in your partner's sperm.
The chromosomes and DNA in sperm contain the genetic instructions that will make a baby look and act like its parents. It's safe to say we all know this, but few realise that a sperm's DNA can actually be damaged during sperm production and transport due to various reasons.
This damage is known as DNA fragmentation, and when there are high levels of DNA fragmentation present, it has been shown to double the likelihood of a miscarriage occurring.
What causes DNA fragmentation in sperm?
Sperm DNA fragmentation can be affected by things like stress, smoke, recreational drugs, obesity, and other avoidable lifestyle factors. Men can make simple lifestyle changes to improve the quality of their sperm's DNA.
Can sperm DNA fragmentation cause miscarriages?
The leading causes of miscarriage are chromosome problems, and chromosomes are blocks of DNA.
Because half of a developing baby's chromosomes come from the father, it is possible that he may contribute abnormal chromosomes to a pregnancy.
Not all babies with the wrong number of chromosomes are miscarried, though. For example, babies with trisomy 21 have Down's syndrome. Some cases of recurrent miscarriages seem to involve the father having a high incidence of abnormal chromosomes in his sperm.
How do lifestyle choices affect sperm DNA?
When a woman becomes pregnant, the importance of her lifestyle choices is often stressed to encourage a healthy pregnancy. It seems that a man's lifestyle may play a role as well.
This primarily goes back to the effect on sperm quality. Things like smoking, alcohol, nutrition, weight, and exercise can all affect the health of a man's sperm.
Unhealthy choices can lead to the many factors that decrease the chances of a successful pregnancy. This includes decreased sperm mobility and vitality, lower sperm counts, and abnormal morphology (the size and shape of sperm). It can also lead to physical damage.
Any damage to sperm can cause fertility problems and, if an egg is fertilized, it may also lead to a miscarriage.
The physicians may recommend that men undergo tests for sperm quality when no other cause for recurrent miscarriages is found. The standard test is a sperm analysis, which looks at the shape, mobility, and sperm count in the sample.
How to prevent miscarriage due to sperm DNA fragmentation
Ultimately, many people who have miscarriages will never know exactly the reason why it happened. Several factors contribute to the risk of miscarriage and it's not fully known how big of a factor sperm is in that, so your best option is to consult your doctor or a fertility specialist.