Seminal fluid and fertility in women

Seminal fluid constituents contacting female reproductive tissues at coitus induce an immune response that impacts fertility and pregnancy health in women.

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Volume 106, Issue 3, Pages 511-519


Sarah A. Robertson, Ph.D., David J. Sharkey, Ph.D.


Seminal fluid is often viewed as simply a vehicle to carry sperm to fertilize the oocyte, but a more complex function in influencing female reproductive physiology is now evident. Remarkably, seminal fluid contains signaling agents that interact with the female reproductive tract to prime the immune response, with consequences for fertility and pregnancy outcome. Experiments in rodent models demonstrate a key role for seminal fluid in enabling robust embryo implantation and optimal placental development. In particular, seminal fluid promotes leukocyte recruitment and generation of regulatory T cells, which facilitate embryo implantation by suppressing inflammation, assisting uterine vascular adaptation, and sustaining tolerance of fetal antigens. There is emerging evidence of comparable effects in women, where seminal fluid provokes an adaptive immune response in the cervical tissues after contact at intercourse, and spermatozoa accessing the higher tract potentially affect the endometrium directly. These biological responses may have clinical significance, explaining why [1] intercourse in IVF ET cycles improves the likelihood of pregnancy, [2] inflammatory disorders of gestation are more common in women who conceive after limited sexual activity with the prospective father, and [3] preeclampsia incidence is elevated after use of donor oocytes or donor sperm where prior contact with conceptus alloantigens has not occurred. It will be important to define the mechanisms through which seminal fluid interacts with female reproductive tissues, to provide knowledge that may assist in preconception planning and infertility treatment.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility┬« is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. 


Go to the profile of Mary Samplaski
over 5 years ago
Were the authors able to look at the oxidative stress parameters, leukocytes and fructose levels in seminal fluid? These parameters have had very little attention in the literature but may represent an area for intervention in male fertility treatment.
Go to the profile of Edmund Ko
about 5 years ago
Sperm has been the primary focus of our field, but this study demonstrates the importance the carrier fluid in which the sperm is transported. Very interesting findings. Along the same line of Dr. Samplaski's thoughts, I then wonder how antisperm antibodies interact and impact the vaginal/uterine environment. Seminal fluid manipulation may be an area in which research could be done to see if the optimal fertilization environment can be reached in a couple's infertility treatment.