Do Stress and Anxiety Affect Sperm Quality?
The human body is equipped with various systems to deal with stress. These include the adrenal glands which are responsible for producing adrenaline and cortisol, the pituitary gland which produces hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen, the hypothalamus which controls many of these functions, and other organs that regulate the immune system. All of these systems work together to produce a normal response to stress. However, when they become dysfunctional or overworked, it may lead to physiological changes that impair normal functioning.
When this occurs, there may be a negative effect on fertility and sexual health. In men, it can result in hormonal imbalances that affect the production of testicular hormones such as testosterone. It may also cause hormonal changes that affect the release of the hormones that are needed to produce and maintain an erection.
In addition, there may be an increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response which increases the production of adrenaline and cortisol. This may cause too much stimulation on the body’s systems, leading to a “burn out” effect which can reduce sexual desire and lead to erectile or ejaculatory difficulties. It can also affect the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, leading to a reduced production of growth hormone and other hormones that are vital to health and fertility.
Overall, stress can have a major effect on male fertility by affecting hormonal balance in the body. It is important to try to reduce stress as much as possible in order to optimise your chances of conception.
How can stress affect your body?
Stress is a major factor that affects many people in today’s society. Some people are able to deal with it better than others, but it still affects the body in one way or another. Most of the time when we think of stress, we think of psychological stress such as work and relationships. However, there is also physiological stress that affects the body and this type of stress is often overlooked.
Stress is a normal human response to a threat, real or imagined. It has helped us survive as a species by mobilising the body’s resources in times of need. The body prepares itself to either fight the threat or run away.
This response is activated by the sympathetic nervous system and involves the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
These hormones cause changes in the body to prepare it for “fight or flight”. The heart rate and breathing quicken. Blood is redirected from the skin and internal organs to the muscles.
Energy resources are released and brain activity is heightened. In the ancient past, this response was life saving as it enabled people to either fight off or run away from life-threatening situations.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Psychological factors in male partners of infertile couples: relationship with semen quality and early miscarriage (B Zorn, J Auger, V Velikonja… – … Journal of andrology, 2008 – Wiley Online Library)
- Effect of emotional stress on sperm quality (G Collodel, E Moretti, V Fontani, S Rinaldi… – Indian Journal of …, 2008 – researchgate.net)
- Association of Depression and Anxiety with Oocyte and Sperm Numbers and Pregnancy Outcomes during in vitro Fertilization Treatment (N Gürhan, D Atici, A Akyüz, S Kisa – Psychological reports, 2009 – journals.sagepub.com)
- Relationship between psychological stress and semen quality among in-vitro fertilization patients (RN Clarke, SC Klock, A Geoghegan… – Human …, 1999 – academic.oup.com)
- Should fertilization treatment start with reducing stress? (DM Campagne – Human Reproduction, 2006 – academic.oup.com)
- Reduced levels of miRNAs 449 and 34 in sperm of mice and men exposed to early life stress (DA Dickson, JK Paulus, V Mensah, J Lem… – Translational …, 2018 – nature.com)