A new study into the possible causes of recurrent miscarriage has found that the quality of sperm may be a contributing factor.
The findings have been published in the journal Clinical Chemistry and the team behind this work hope that they’ll inform treatments that reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Scientists at London’s Imperial College looked at the sperm quality of 50 men whose partners had endured three or more consecutive miscarriages.
They found that “compared to men whose partners had not experienced miscarriages, the sperm of those involved in the study had higher levels of DNA damage,” Science Daily reports.
Previously much of the research into miscarriage was focused on the mother’s health and possible issues with her immune system or infections thought to be contributing factors.
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Protective molecules may lead to sperm damage
Dr Channa Jayasena, lead author of the study said including fathers in the research was important.
“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.”
This new research “adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests sperm health dictates the health of a pregnancy,” Dr Jayasena explained.
It’s suggested that reactive oxygen species – where the semen cells form special molecules to protect the sperm from infection – may sometimes be in such a high concentration that they damage the sperm’s DNA.
Clues for future miscarriage treatment
The men in the study “had a four-fold increase in the amount of reactive oxygen species compared to the control group,” Science Daily reports.
The men whose partners had suffered consecutive miscarriages were also slightly older and slightly more overweight than the control group, so researchers are looking into whether age and size might also impact the levels of reactive oxygen species.
“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,” Dr Jayasena said.
“Now we realise both partners contribute to recurrent miscarriage, we can hopefully get a clearer picture of the problem and start to look for ways of ensuring more pregnancies result in a healthy baby.”