Male birthweight, semen quality and birth outcomes

What are the relations among birthweight (BW), semen parameters and birth outcomes in a population-based sample?

BW is unrelated to semen parameters, which are in turn unrelated to birth outcomes.

In clinical settings, there has been suggestion that semen parameters are related to BW when comparing fertile and infertile men; however, findings have been less clear in more general populations.

Questionnaire data and semen samples were collected at baseline from 427 male participants of the population-based Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) prospective cohort study from 2005 to 2009, who were followed prospectively to assess pregnancy outcomes among 226 singleton births.

Men of at least 18 years of age who were married or in a committed relationship and trying to conceive were eligible for participation; physician-diagnosed infertility was an exclusion criterion. Participants were recruited from two geographic areas and semen samples were analyzed for 34 quality parameters categorized as general, motility, morphology, sperm head and sperm chromatin structure using methods including computer-aided semen analysis integrated visual optical system and sperm chromatin structure assay. Linear and mixed models were used for statistical analysis of the relations between men's BW, semen parameters, and BW, gestational age at delivery, birth length, head circumference and ponderal index of singleton births.

No association was observed between male BW and semen parameters or birth outcomes. Few associations were observed between semen parameters and birth outcomes, and the observed statistically significant associations were isolated and without a consistent pattern that would suggest an association between BW and birth outcomes.

Men's BW was self-reported and may be subject to some imprecision. Semen analysis was performed the day after collection, an approach that impacts the assessment of motility and that may limit inference from our analyses of motility measures. In addition, inclusion criteria for selection into the cohort limits generalizability to generally healthy couples trying to conceive and without known subfertility.

Despite suggestions from prior studies of male in utero exposures impacting BW and male reproductive health, there appears to be little support for such relations in this generally healthy population.

Supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (N01-HD-3-3355, N01-HD-3-3356 and NOH-HD-3-3358). The authors report no competing interests, and a Memo of Understanding with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for semen analysis.

Not applicable.

Human reproduction (Oxford, England). 2017 Jan 18 [Epub ahead of print]

B W Whitcomb, M S Bloom, S Kim, Z Chen, G M Buck Louis

Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Massachusetts, 715 N. Pleasant St., Amherst, MA 01002, USA ., Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, One University Place, Rensselaer, NY 12144, USA., Division of Intramural Population Health Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 6710B Rockledge Dr., Bethesda MD 20852, USA.