Planning a pregnancy

When a couple is planning a pregnancy, pre-conception counselling on diet and exercise is usually directed solely at the woman. However, a new in-depth study has suggested that perhaps men should be included in the pre-pregnancy lifestyle discussions.

The study, published in 2020, revealed that if a man in the pre-conception stage, had one or more of the following medical issues, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, these issues can affect the quality of the sperm produced. Poor quality sperm raises the risk of a miscarriage, also known as a pregnancy loss.

A definite link

The research established a definite link between paternal health in the preconception stage, and the loss of the pregnancy after conception. It was calculated that the risk for losing the pregnancy was 27%, compared to 10% for men who had no medical issues. When doing the calculations, the numbers were adjusted to account for other factors which might impact negatively on pregnancy.

For example, the mother’s age, weight, health, and whether either parent was a smoker. The investigators discovered that the risks of a miscarriage increased with a mother’s age and the number of medical conditions she had. However, even with taking all the factors into account, the studies concluded that the association between losing the pregnancy and the father’s health still remained a risk.

What is it about a man’s pre-conception health that negatively affects pregnancy?

There is existing research that offers a few clues, which mostly refer to sperm quality and sperm count. Some of the studies suggest that the sperm in men who are going to be older fathers, and who smoke, are obese, or who have some of the other health mobilities may have contaminated sperm. And a much-reduced sperm count. The research also showed that the older the father, the higher the risk of losing the pregnancy.

Poor quality sperm can potentially attract what is known as epigenetic factors to the sperm, factors which may be abnormal. The epigenetic factor is described as something which is over and above (epi) the genetic DNA of the sperm. Studies have shown that epigenetics is related to research that that investigates how your behaviours and health can impact the way your genes function.

Epigenetic factors can be reversed with a change of lifestyle and attention to medical issues. These factors cannot change your DNA, but they may affect how your body interprets a DNA sequence.

DNA sequence

Your DNA sequence is passed down through time from those who make up your inherent DNA components, and cannot be fundamentally changed by exterior factors such as epigenetics. However, epigenetics can alter the way your body reads your DNA sequence. The incorrect interpretation may infiltrate healthy sperm and lead to a mutation which could affect pregnancy.

If you are planning to father a child, the key to a successful pregnancy is to have an in-depth pre-conception medical examination to resolve any medical issues.

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November 09, 2021

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