A high level of DNA fragmentation in sperm can lead to male infertility, and stop you from getting pregnant. Here’s what causes sperm fragmentation and how to reduce the effects of fragmented DNA in sperm.
Antioxidants are the most powerful way to decrease sperm fragmentation because they reduce the effects of exposure to toxins that occur naturally in our environment. Some foods are naturally high in antioxidants – I list them below – but sometimes a “booster shot” is helpful.
Eden Pond Astaxanthin – Natural Powerful Antioxidant Supplement acts as a “booster shot” for common antioxidants, and is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients in the world. It helps fight free radicals that may contribute to sperm fragmentation and premature aging of cells.
I recently learned that before a sperm can fertilize an egg, it has to bind to and bore through an outer egg layer of the egg. This outer layer is called the zona pellucida, and it protects the egg and the early embryo before implantation. If the DNA of your sperm is fragmented (“sperm fragmentation”), it will be less able to penetrate the egg and get you pregnant. That’s the simple explanation of how sperm fragmentation affects getting pregnant. Sperm fragmentation also affects pregnancy in negative ways, and can even lead to the failure of fertility treatments.
Here’s how sperm fragmentation is caused, how to reduce the effects of sperm fragmentation, and get pregnant…
DNA Fragmentation in Sperm
Men over age 35 have a lower sperm count, less motile sperm, and increased risk of miscarriage when they get women pregnant. When a man is over 35, his body is less capable of finding and destroying damaged or fragmented sperm in his own body. Damaged sperm or sperm fragmentation decreases the chances of getting pregnant, and could to lead to birth defects if pregnancy occurs. Older fathers are more likely to have autistic children.
Sperm fragmentation is caused by several different factors, and affects getting pregnant in several ways. For instance, a man’s body weight can lead to fragmentation in sperm if he is overweight or obese. A man’s increasing age also fragments sperm, and so does eating pesticides and herbicides on unwashed fruits and vegetables. A high level of fragmented sperm can lead to unexplained infertility, implantation failure in in vitro fertilization (IVF), and recurrent miscarriage.
In What Causes Unexplained Infertility in Men? Damaged DNA in Sperm, I describe how the chances of having a baby after in vitro fertilization (IVF) is closely related to the amount of sperm damage or fragmentation a man has. A little damage is normal in the sperm of men who are fertile. But if there is high sperm DNA damage (more than 25% of damage per sperm), then the couples’ chances of getting pregnant are reduced – even with some forms of fertility treatments.
It’s important to know how sperm fragmentation affects getting pregnant because it is difficult to detect fragmented sperm. If you’re having problems getting pregnant, it’s possible that sperm fragmentation is the reason – and you don’t even know it.
A special sperm test is necessary to detect sperm fragmentation. I’ve written about the SpermCheck for Fertility test in my article about understanding the results of your sperm test, but I’ve learned that a normal semen analysis cannot test for DNA fragmentation in sperm. If you’re having problems getting pregnant, it’s important to go beyond the usual male fertility tests, and ask your gynecologist for a test specifically for DNA fragmentation in sperm. I wouldn’t trust an at-home fertility test for this – if they’re even available for testing sperm fragmentation, which I doubt! The more specialized you get, the more important it is to get a fertility specialist’s help.
How to Decrease Sperm Fragmentation
Increase antioxidant intake. Antioxidants guard against DNA damage by protecting the body from toxins and pollutants. Antioxidants are found in selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Natural ways to imbibe antioxidants include eating carrots, pumpkins, broccoli, berries, beetroot, and tomatoes. Antioxidants that help reduce fragmentation in sperm are also found in oily fish (salmon, sardines), nuts, and seeds.
To learn the best foods high in antioxidants, read 5 Foods to Increase Sperm Count, Production, and Motility. And, consider taking the antioxidant supplement I listed at the beginning of this article.
Supplements to reduce high sperm fragmentation. “If your partner has a high sperm fragmentation, I would recommend taking these nutrients in supplement form for quicker results,” writes Dr Marilyn Glenvillle in Getting Pregnant – Faster. The supplements she highlighted in her book are vitamin C (1000 mg per day) and vitamin E (1000mg per day), for at least two months.
“Manganese is also important as it helps to activate an enzyme called superoxide dismutase,” adds Dr Glenville. “Superoxide dismutase protects the mitochondria (microscopic structures containing genetic material found in cells) from free radical attack.”
Rainbow Light Men’s One Multivitamin is a great way to ensure you’re getting all the minerals and vitamins that help decrease sperm fragmentation. Taking a million different types of vitamins and minerals separately probably isn’t necessary, especially if you eat healthy, fresh, nutritious foods that aren’t processed. A single high-quality multivitamin is probably all you need – but it’s always worth checking with your doctor!
Folic acid to decrease the effects of fragmented sperm on getting pregnant. Folic acid is not only crucial for an unborn baby’s development in the womb, it also helps with the healthy synthesis of DNA. Folic acid helps with cell replication and growth, and should be taken by men daily. Not just to reduce sperm fragmentation, but to stay healthy and strong overall!
Are you trying to get pregnant? Fairhaven Health's Hormone Balance Bundle improves egg quality, encourages cycle regularity, and helps your body ovulate regularly.
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I welcome your thoughts on how sperm fragmentation affects getting pregnant below. I’m not a doctor, though, and can’t offer medical advice or health opinions. Please talk to your doctor or urologist in person if you have questions about fragmented sperm and pregnancy.