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Lifestyle Effects on Sperm Quality

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a blog by Michelle Ottey, PhD, Director of Operations, Fairfax Cryobank and Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc., April 19, 2011

In a recent article in Fertility and Sterility, research was published confirming that higher age, along with lifestyle factors such as stress, smoking and alcohol are all factors that negatively affect semen quality. Different factors cause lower sperm count, lower semen volume, lower motility, etc. All of these parameters matter when it comes to characterizing a sperm sample as healthy.

That being said, a seemingly healthy choice could also negatively affect sperm quality. A study published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology recently demonstrated that male mice with a high consumption of soy had sperm counts 25 percent lower than their counterparts with soy-free diets. Soy has estrogen compounds that could be responsible for lowering the sperm count.

In screening our prospective sperm donors, we see the direct effects of high stress, smoking, medication and other factors on specimen quality. Sperm banks are looking for men with the highest quality semen specimens — higher than what the World Health Organization states are healthy parameters.

If we see a promising prospective sperm donor whose sample is not up to our incredibly high standards, but we can identify a cause, we will work with him to make some lifestyle changes and re-screen three months later. The process of producing new sperm takes approximately 90 days, so a deferral of this time, with very little effort from a man, can result in his return with a stellar sample. Sperm banks do this if a man has had a period of high stress or if he has had a bad flu with fever that results in lower sperm counts or motilities.

The bottom line is that sperm banks take all of this into consideration, and we work very closely with our prospective sperm donors and our established sperm donors to ensure that our recipients are getting the highest quality donor sperm samples possible.

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