The effect of stress on fertility and overall health has been well documented, but new studies have begun to unveil the extent of its impact. Stressed fathers may end up with changes to their sperm, which in turn affects the behaviour of offspring who were conceived during that stressful period.
Studies on mice have shown that sperm produced by stressed males is richer in microRNAs – this type of molecule has an impact on everything from heart and kidney disease through to obesity and propensity towards alcoholism. Scientists working on this study are particularly concerned about the impact on healthy stress responses in children – an inability to respond properly to stress can lead to disorders such as PTSD and depression.
The experiments have not yet been published, but other scientists within epigenetics and fertility have already weighed into the debate. Jonathan Mill, Professor of epigenetics at University of Exeter says, “MicroRNAs play a critical role in regulating gene expression in the brain during development and this study appears to suggest that miR-206 has an important role in controlling anxiety-related behaviour.”
While ongoing research uncovers different causal mechanisms between how a child is conceived and its genetic makeup, it is important to remain calm about potential links. People undergoing fertility treatments often feel pressured or anxious about a variety of elements, and it’s important to avoid adding to that anxiety. We consistently recommend a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and occasionally counselling/therapy to people before, during, and after their treatments to maintain a sense of perspective and avoid focussing entirely on various potential outcomes. People in all walks of life should aim to reduce their stress levels and dedicate at least some time towards pursuits as part of a healthy and rewarding lifestyle.