The idea that men have any part at all to play in problems during pregnancy is a relatively recent one. It wasn’t until the Renaissance, for example, that medical authors even began to agree that defective sperm might be a cause of infertility, with women instead being diagnosed with insane-sounding conditions such as “wandering womb,” a term from Medieval Europe, where it was believed that the womb roamed about the body at will.
But it takes two to tango, as they say, and beyond issues around fertility, new research stresses that men — and more importantly, their sperm — are perhaps equally to blame for the tragedy of miscarriages.
To come to this conclusion, researchers at Imperial College London tested the sperm of 50 men whose partners endured repeated miscarriages and compared the results to those provided by a control group of 60 similar male volunteers. The sperm belonging to men in the miscarriage group contained twice as much DNA as the control group, which is thought to be the result of so-called reactive oxygen species — molecules that have been known to damage sperm in high concentrations.
While the researchers are uncertain as to why the miscarriage group sperm contained higher levels of reactive oxygen species, the study notes that these men were older than those in the control group — with an average age of 37 as opposed to 30 — and slightly more overweight, both of which have been proven to negatively impact sperm health, and therefore, negatively impact the health of a baby produced by said sperm.
The researchers also propose another kinda frightening theory: “Although none of the men in the trial had any ongoing infection such as chlamydia — which we know can affect sperm health — it is possible there may be other bacteria from previous infections lingering in the prostate gland, which makes semen,” lead author Channa Jayasena explains in a press release. “This may lead to permanently high levels of reactive oxygen species.”
All of which is more reason to take care of your prostate, brah.
It’s important to understand, however, that this research is only the tip of the jizzy iceberg. “If we confirm in further work that high levels of reactive oxygen species in semen increase the risk of miscarriage, we could try to develop treatments that lower these levels and increase the chance of a healthy pregnancy,” Jayasena says. “It has taken medicine a long time to realize sperm health has a role to play in miscarriage — and that the cause doesn’t lie solely with women.”
But until Jayasena and his team get on with their next batch of research, if you even plan on making babies, it’s important that you keep your sperm in tip-top shape by following these tips laid out by my colleague Tracy Moore. To summarize: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; stop drinking, smoking and doing drugs; and avoid anything that keeps your balls hot (like jacuzzis, or resting your laptop on them) for long periods of time.
Remember: The better the sperm, the better the baby.