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The Impact of Stress on Sperm and Semen Quality

The Impact Of Stress On Sperm And Semen Quality

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Stress is a part of everyday life for almost everyone. But what exactly is stress, and what effect has it on your sperm quality?

Understanding the impact of stress on sperm quality is an essential first step. When you know the cause of poor sperm quality, you can do something about it!

Stress is defined by both emotional and physiological reactions. An individual experiences these reactions in situations where the demand goes beyond the individual’s ability to cope.

Short-term stress can be a big motivator and can at times make people perform at their best. For example, a competition is a situation where short-term stress can make us perform. But when stress continuously occurs, it may become chronic and affect daily routines and interrupt body functions. It can be very unhealthy – especially when it goes on for an extended period.

Psychological stress has been linked to both higher mortality and various diseases. For example, these include cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and components of the metabolic syndrome. All of these have been linked to lower sperm quality. Furthermore, there is significant research suggesting that men’s reproductive health may also be affected by their social environment.

What does stress do to your body?

In general, stress uses up your body’s resources. That can lead to a bad immune system and hormone imbalances, making the body and mind susceptible to diseases and weak in fighting harmful environmental exposures.

When it comes to sperm quality, stress is associated with lower testosterone levels and something called ‘oxidative stress’. Having a high testosterone level and a low level of free radicals, which cause oxidative stress, play an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

People can evaluate and report stress in different ways. This makes it difficult to compare studies. Even if the majority of the studies conclude that there is a negative association between stress and  sperm quality, some findings are a little contradicting in their conclusions.

What can stress do to impact sperm quality? – The scientific findings

In a Danish study from 2016 with 1,215 male participants, the results showed that high self-reported stress is associate with lower semen volume, total sperm count, and sperm concentration, as well a lower number healthy looking sperm cells. Men with the highest stress scores showed to have most affected parameters.

In another study where life events were evaluated, the researchers found that men who experienced two or more stressful life events within 12 months of each other had a lower percentage of sperm motility and a smaller percentage of sperm of normal morphology, compared with men who did not experience any stressful life events.

Even if it would be natural to think that reducing stress level can improve sperm quality and enhance fertility in both men and women, few studies have investigated this matter. One study from 2008 looked into stress therapy and the impact on sperm quality. The study divided 20 men into two groups – participants in Group A got stress reducing therapy (CRM therapy) as treatment, and Group B where participants didn’t get any treatment. The study showed that men who were exposed to stress-reducing therapy (Group A) clearly had improved their semen motility and significantly increased healthy sperm cell count. This indicates that stress is an additional risk factor for male infertility.

What can YOU do to relieve stress?

Well, you may have thought about what to do to reduce stress, but haven’t taken the opportunity to stop and make an effort. Don’t worry, this is normal for most people with busy lives.

We have gathered the most beneficial tips in the box below.

  • Exercise – Try to keep a simple routine and do something you enjoy.
  • Consider supplements – There are lots of natural supplements available to help reduce stress – Speak to one of our consultants and find out more.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake – Maybe remove one or two cups from your daily coffee routine.
  • Write your issues down – Seeing your problems on paper sometimes simplifies your issues.
  • Make time to spend with friends and family – Give your self more time.
  • Learn to say no – You can’t please everyone, but you should please yourself.


Do you want to learn more? Check out our other lifestyle blog articles!

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.