Stress and Job-Related Factors



Trying to have a child can be a stressful and emotional time.  Many men also have significant stress associated with their job or other life situations.  Stress can certainly impact sexual function in a negative manner.  Studies have also shown that stress can also impact fertility in men as well (though typically to a lesser degree than the impact on women’s fertility/ovulation).  Stress in some men has been shown to decrease the responsiveness of the pituitary gland to GnRH stimulation.  This can lead to decreases in gonadotropin release (LH and FSH) needed for normal testicular function.  The result can be decreased levels of testosterone and sperm production.

A study performed in 2010 of 950 men trying to have a child showed that 2 or more stress events of either the man or his spouse (e.g. job loss, serious illness, serious legal/financial/relationship problem, etc) was associated with a 1.54 to 2 times increased risk of having abnormalities of sperm counts, motility, or morphology.  (Gollenberg AL etal FertSter 93, 2010)

Potential strategies for dealing with stress include:

        1) Exercise

        2) Healthy eating/lifestyle

        3) Relaxation strategies such as meditation

        4) Counseling (personal or couples counseling)



According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), over 1000 chemicals used in the workplace have been associated with reproductive side effects in animals, though human studies are lacking for most.  An additional 4 million other commercially used chemical mixtures have not been studied at all.

Some chemicals which have known or suspected negative impacts on male fertility include:

     1) Heavy metals- examples: lead, cadmium, boron, mercury

            -at risk: welders, factory workers that make chemicals or use heavy metals jewerly makers,

                   ceramics, stained glass, painters (using lead-based paint)

      2) Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

             -capacitors, electric motors, transformers

       3) Industrial solvents (e.g. carbon disulfide)

              -can lead to hormonal changes and decreases in semen quality in some men

              -examples: paints, varnishes, lacquers, adhesives, glues, degreasers, cleaning agents

              -production of dyes, polymers, plastics, textiles, printing inks, agricultural products,


        4) Pesticides/herbicides/fungicides(e.g. dibromochloropropane)

               -agricultural and greenhouse workers have been found to have decreased semen 


          5) Plastic components (e.g. phthalates, bisphenolic)- endocrine disruptors/weak estrogens


The NIOSH lists the following recommendations for limiting potential toxic exposure to workplace chemicals:

                  a) Store chemicals in sealed containers when not in use

                  b) Wash hands before eating, drinking, and smoking

                  c)  Avoid skin contact with chemicals

                  d) If chemicals contact the skin, follow the directions for washing provided in the

                              material safety data sheet (MSDS).

                  e) Become familiar with the potential reproductive hazards used in your workplace.

                  f) To prevent home contamination:

                            i. Change out of contaminated clothing and wash with soap and water before

                                        going home

                            ii. Store street clothes in a separate area of the workplace to prevent contamination

                             iii. Wash work clothing separately from other laundry (at work, if possible)

                             iv. Avoid bringing contaminated clothing or other objects home.

                   g. Participate in all safety and health education, training, and monitoring programs

                             offered by your employer.

                   h. Learn about proper work practices, engineering controls, and personal protective

                             equipment (i.e. gloves, respirators, and personal protective clothing) that can be

                             used to minimize exposures to hazardous substances.

                   i. Follow the safety and health work practices and procedures implemented by your

                              employer to prevent exposures to reproductive hazards in the workplace.