New research from the Imperial College London suggests that multiple miscarriages could be the result of faulty sperm.
This finding will open new avenues to finding treatments to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Traditionally a woman’s health is investigated after miscarriage. New information however suggests that a man’s sperm health can also dictate the viability of a pregnancy. This discovery could change the way we deal with multiple miscarriage and potentially reduce their incidence.
Sperm health plays a role in miscarriage
Recurrent miscarriage is defined as three or more pregnancies lost before 20 weeks and currently affects one in 50 couples in the UK. Until recently it was typically attributed to infections or health problems affecting the mother.
Lead Researcher, Doctor Channa Jayasena, says the study confirms that dad’s health must be considered to understand recurring pregnancy loss.
Traditionally doctors have focused attention on women when looking for the causes of recurrent miscarriage. The men’s health and the health of their sperm, wasn’t analysed. However, this research adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests sperm health dictates the health of a pregnancy.
Unhealthy sperm actually means DNA damaged sperm
The research team analysed the sperm of 50 men who were patients at the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital in London. The analysis revealed sperm from men with partners who had suffered recurrent miscarriage had at least twice as much DNA damage as the control group.
The research team suggest so-called reactive oxygen species trigger this DNA damage. Men whose partners had suffered miscarriage had a four-fold increase in the amount of reactive oxygen species compared to those who had not.
What are reactive oxygen species?
Reactive oxygen species are molecules cells form in semen to protect sperm from bacteria and infection. However, in high enough concentrations the molecules can cause significant damage to sperm cells.
What causes excessive reactive oxygen species?
As well as developing drugs to reduce these levels the next stage of the investigation is to understand exactly what might cause these elevated levels.
To be precise, the researchers aren’t 100% sure just yet. Three factors however are a common theme amongst the research data:
- Infection in the prostate gland: Dr Jayasena said that while none of the men in the study had an ongoing infection, bacteria from previous bouts of illness could be present and heighten the cause.
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. This may lead to permanently high levels of reactive oxygen species. – Dr Jayasena
- Obesity in dads: There is increasing evidence that being overweight can impact the sperm DNA. This is possibly because high levels of body fat can trigger an increase in reactive oxygen species.
- Older aged dads: It requires further investigation, but there is an early link between dad’s age and sperm health. The average age of the research group was 37 for the study however this does not take into account that the couples experiencing recurrent miscarriage could have been trying to conceive for many years.
So, where does this leave hopeful parents right now?
For now, the findings are scientifically significant. They won’t however impact day to day health management of those who are experiencing recurrent miscarriage. The cause of the reactive oxygen species and it’s treatment need more research.
On a practical level however if you’re trying to conceive keeping dad as healthy as possible seems like a smart idea, no matter what. Good luck!