We constantly hear how women need to “relax” more during an IVF cycle or while trying to conceive.  Did you knowstresscan play a role in implantation and the outcome of IVF?

Did you know that male infertility accounts for around 40% of all infertility problems?

But did you know that stress and anxiety also plays a large role in your partner’s sperm quality and therefore embryo quality?

Researchers have found that psychological stress factors are increased in male IVF patients such as:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Loss of job
  • Pandemic
  • Increased financial obligations
  • Getting married
  • IVF
  • Moving home
  • Chronic injury or illness
  • Emotional problems (depression, anxiety)

A study by Vellani, E et al, 2013 showed men that stated they hadstress/anxiety had a strong correlation with a decrease in semen quality.

The effect of stress and anxiety on men can have an affect on semen volume, concentration, total count, motility, and sperm DNA fragmentation.  DNA fragmentation can have an affect of embryo quality, and pregnancy.

A study by Vellani, E et al, 2013 found that stressed healthy men showed low levels of semen volume and sperm morphology, and stressed men going through IVF showed a decrease in sperm concentration and motility.

It has been found that men undergoing IVF with their partner are associated with higher stress and trait anxiety, compared to men not going through IVF treatment.  This stress was found to cause a decrease in sperm quality.

A study byEskiocak, S et al, 2006 found that low amounts of nitric oxide in the males reproductive hormones was needed for normal sperm function.  During testing they discovered that under stressedconditions, nitric oxide increased and caused a decrease in sperm quality.

Men undergoing IVF treatment experiencing stress/anxiety have been shown to have a rise inactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.  This causes an inhibition of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis resulting in a decrease in luteinizing hormone and testosterone. This in turn has a negative impact of sperm development.

Other stresses that can affect sperm quality

Not only mental stress affects sperm quality, we need to think about the every day stresses we do to our own bodies.  These can include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Drugs
  • Medications
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Mobile phones/Laptops
  • Overheating the testis
  • Tight underwear
  • Diet

Top 6 tips for looking after your sperm:

  • Use techniques such as journaling, positive affirmations, meditation, counseling, talking to family and friends, asking questions to your doctor communicating with your partner and regular exercises to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Consume foods dense in macronutrients and antioxidants to prevent DNA sperm damage, such as turmeric, blueberries, prunes, kale and spinach to name a few.
  • Increase foods with vitamin C to increase sperm count and quality. Vitamin C reduces the quantity of sperm sticking together, and not being able to fertilise an egg. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries and watermelon.
  • Consuming foods high in antioxidants, which include vitamin C and E, zinc and selenium, helps to increase sperm motility. Our top 3 antioxidant rich foods are goji berries, wild berries and dark chocolate (in moderation).
  • Love your nuts? Just 5 brazil nuts a day can help increase male fertility due to their selenium content
  • Consume foods high in zinc to aid the repair of DNA damage, and improve sperm function and physiology. Good sources of zinc include in lean meats, oysters, liver, seeds, nuts, and whole grains

Take care of your sperm by avoiding:

  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol to a minimum – no more than 3 units per day. According to a study from Vignera, S, L et al (2013), more than 3 units of alcohol has an adverse affect on sperm parameters and testicular morphology.
  • Restrictive underwear – is tight around the testis and holds them closer to the body causing over-heating, and sperm damage.
  • Avoid using laptop computers on your lap as this heats up the testicles, damaging sperm.
  • Cut out all refined sugars, as these produce reactive oxidative species (ROS), that cause damage to your sperm.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight and perform regular physical exercise


Eskiocak, S., Gozen, A, S., Taskiran, A., Kilic, A, S., Eskiocak, M., and Gulen, S (2006).Effect of psychological stress on the L-arginine-nitric oxide pathway and semen quality Brazillian Journal of Medical and Biological Research’ 39(5) 518-588.
Vignera, S, L., Condorelli, R, A., Balercia, G., Vicari, E., Calogero, A, E. (2013).Does alcohol have any effect on male reproductive function? A review of literature‘Asian Journal of Andrology’ 15, 2, 221-225.
Vellani, E., Colasante, A., Mamazza, L., Minasi, M, G., Greco, E., and Bevilacqua, A. (2013). Association of state and trait anxiety to semen quality of in vitro fertilization patients: a controlled study. ‘Fertility and Sterility.’ 99(6), 1565-1572.