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Males Exposed to Maternal Smoking Have Poorer Sperm Count

Update Date: Jul 08, 2013 03:02 PM EDT

Over the past two decades, several studies have found that male semen quality and quantity appeared to have been jeopardized. With the poorer sperm production, unborn babies could be at risk for birth defects and other abnormalities, which is why studying the causes of reduced semen count and quality is important. In a long, large-scale study, researchers discovered that pregnant mothers who smoke play a huge factor in their sons' semen production.

This study, the Western Australia Pregnancy (Raine) Cohort, started in 1989 and recruited 2,900 pregnant women. The researchers assessed the newborns before and after birth to identify possible correlations between the mother's habits and child's health. The researchers performed a testicular assessment when the sons reached 20 to 22-years-old. The assessment measured testicular volume, semen quality and hormone production.

The researchers found that one-sixth of the young adult men had below normal sperm parameters. Over one-fourth of the men had unacceptable semen appearance. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines semen quality and normality. After calculating correlations, the researchers found that maternal smoking during pregnancy, poor childhood growth and increased fat deposition during early childhood and adolescence all affected semen quality in a negative way.

"The main message from our study is that to reach adulthood with the best possible testicular function a man should not be exposed to his mother's smoking, should have good fetal growth and, in childhood and through adolescence, should be 'appropriately grown' - that is, neither underweight nor overweight, and as an adult should not smoke or take drugs," Professor Roger Hart of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Western Australia said according to Daily Mail.

The study was presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting.

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