Salt Lake City – According to the Utah Pregnancy Risk Line, a Utah Department of
Health (UDOH) program that educates the public about exposures to drugs, diseases, and
hazardous chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding, more studies are needed to
evaluate the potential effect of men’s illnesses, medications, and lifestyle habits on their
own fertility and potential pregnancies.
“A paternal exposure is anything the father of the baby is exposed to before his partner’s
pregnancy,” explained Julia Robertson, director of Utah’s Pregnancy Risk Line, a joint
UDOH and University of Utah project. “Some exposures may affect a man’s ability to
father a child by changing the size or shape of sperm, the number of sperm produced, or
how the sperm work,” she added.
It’s estimated that for couples suffering fertility problems, the issue rests half of the time
with the male. In approximately one-quarter of these cases, a specific cause is unknown.
Studies have found associations between the following risk factors and altered sperm,
lower fertility, and infertility:
· Occupational: Chemicals like heavy metals, solvents, and fumes (welding fumes,
· Physical agents: Heat, vibration, and extremes in temperature and pressure.
· Radiation: Radiation used to treat cancer.
· Lifestyle: Cigarette smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.
· Infections: For example, chlamydia, a common sexually-transmitted disease.
· Pollutants: As an example, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). PCBs were
banned by the EPA in 1979, but still exist in the environment, including landfills,
lakes, and streams.
“Dad is sometimes an afterthought when it comes to pregnancy,” said Robertson. “But
the bottom line is it’s often just as important to consider Dad’s impact on a pregnancy as
it is Mom’s,” she added. “So, what better time to remind the public of that than on
In Utah, questions or concerns about paternal exposures in pregnancy or breastfeeding
can be directed to Pregnancy Risk Line counselors at (800) 822-2229. Outside Utah,
please call the national affiliate, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists,
at (866) 626-6847.