Stress during pregnancy increases the risk of infertility in male children

Effects of stress in pregnancy

According to a recent study, men are more likely to experience fertility problems if their mothers have had stressful events early in pregnancy.

The current study by the University of Copenhagen and the University of Western Australia found that early stress during pregnancy can lead to later fertility problems in the sons. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Human Reproduction".

Effects of pregnancy stress on male offspring

Compared to men whose mothers had a stress-free pregnancy, men whose mothers had one or more stressful life experiences during their early pregnancy had less testosterone and less total sperm. It also reduced the number of sperm that could move through the female reproductive tract to eventually reach an egg.

These situations can cause significant stress

The study examined data on reproductive hormones and the quality and quantity of sperm in 643 men aged 20 years. A total of 407 men (63 percent) had mothers who had to go through at least one stressful event early in pregnancy, such as the death of a close relative or friend, separation or divorce, marital problems, loss of job, money problems or pregnancy complications. Mothers of 87 men in the study even experienced at least three stressful situations early in their pregnancy, the study authors report.

Well-to-do mothers of normal weight were less likely to experience stress

The researchers also found that mothers who experienced no stress during pregnancy were more likely to be wealthy and healthy in weight. The researchers interviewed women in the 18th and 34th week of pregnancy about all the stressful life experiences that they had had within the four weeks before.

Healthy parents are more likely to have healthy children

The study also showed that stressful life experiences that occurred late in pregnancy were not clearly related to the fertility of the sons. The couple's health at conception and women's health during pregnancy has a significant impact on offspring health after birth - from childhood to adulthood, the study authors said. When couples are trying to have a baby, the best time to do it is when both partners are as physically and mentally healthy as possible.

Further research would be appropriate

According to the researchers, the biological relationship between the stress caused by stressful life experiences in early pregnancy and male infertility has not yet been sufficiently researched. However, weeks 8 through 14 of pregnancy are a critical period for male reproductive development, according to the study team. It is possible that the stress disrupts the normal development process during this time.

What causes stress in the body?

Stressful life events are associated with physiological, metabolic and hormonal changes in the body. These changes also occur during pregnancy and can affect the development of the fetus. Stress occurs with a high level of the hormone cortisol in the body and this also affects the amniotic fluid and can affect the development of the fetus. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Bräuner, Hansen, Doherty, Dickinson, Handelsman, Hickey, Skakkebæk, Juul, Hart: The association between in-utero exposure to stressful life events during pregnancy and male reproductive function in a cohort of 20-year-old offspring: The Raine Study, in Human Reproduction (query: June 29, 2019), Human Reproduction

Video: Fostering Mental Wellness for a Stress Less Pregnancy (January 2022).