Glutathione and free sulphydryl content of seminal plasma in healthy medical students during and after exam stress

S.Eskioca et al, Human Reproduction 2005, Vol.20, No.9 pp. 2595–2600. Human Reproduction 
It is not only women's fertility which is affected by stress. This study examines the effect of stress on certain antioxidants present in semen, and concludes that this effect may explain the deleterious effect of stress on sperm. Further studies need to be done to examine the mechanism whereby acupuncture, with its well known reputation in reducing stress, improves sperm quality. One study, see below, has found that a Chinese herb can beneficially affect these antioxidants. 


Background: It has been reported that there is a relationship between stress and infertility. The mechanisms of stress-related semen quality alterations have not been fully elucidated. In the present study, we investigated the effect of examination stress on seminal glutathione and free sulphydryl content and sperm quality.
Methods: Semen samples were collected from 34 healthy volunteers who were students of medical school in the fourth semester just before (stress period) and 3 months after (non-stress period) their final examinations. Their psychological examination stress was measured by the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire. After standard semen analysis, semen samples were centrifuged at 10 000g for 15 min. Glutathione and free sulphydryl concentration of seminal plasma were measured.
Results: During the period of examination stress, the glutathione and free sulphydryl content of seminal plasma and the motility index of spermatozoa were significantly lower, whereas the percentage of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa was higher, than during the non-stress period (P < 0.001, for all). An association between seminal plasma glutathione and motility index was observed at both periods (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively).
Conclusions: This study demonstrated that glutathione and free sulphydryl levels in seminal plasma decreased in subjects undergoing examination stress. Furthermore, poor sperm quality may be due to loss of glutathione and free sulphydryl content of seminal plasma.