Influence of ejaculatory abstinence on seminal total antioxidant capacity and sperm membrane lipid peroxidation

A single day of ejaculatory abstinence (EA) compared with 4 days of EA increased seminal total antioxidant capacity without a measurable effect on sperm membrane lipid peroxidation.


Paul Marshburn, M.D., Allie Giddings, M.D., Stephanie Causby, M.Sc., Michelle L. Matthews, M.D., Rebecca S. Usadi, M.D., Nury Steuerwald, Ph.D., Bradley S. Hurst, M.D.

Volume 102, Issue 3, Pages 705-710



To determine whether the period of ejaculatory abstinence (EA) influences the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of semen or lipid peroxidation (LPO) of sperm membranes.


A prospective experimental trial.


Academic medical center for reproductive endocrinology and infertility.


Forty men from infertile couples planning intrauterine insemination.


Men provided semen specimens after EA periods of 1 and 4 days.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Semen analysis, peroxidase staining, and assays for seminal TAC and sperm membrane LPO, with measures compared between days 1 and 4 within individuals (internal control) using paired t tests.


The shorter period of EA (1 day vs. 4 days) resulted in statistically significant decreases in semen volume (−24%), sperm density (−28%), and total sperm count (−3.2%). There was a statistically significant increase in TAC with the shorter period of EA (1 day) compared with 4 days of EA. No difference was detected in sperm membrane LPO comparing 1 day of EA and 4 days of EA.


Higher seminal TAC obtained after a shorter period of EA could diminish oxidative stress–induced sperm damage by a mechanism independent of LPO. Shorter periods of EA may thus improve sperm quality by protecting from reactive oxygen species damage, even though lower numbers of motile sperm are produced after a shorter period of EA. This would be consistent with prior research indicating improved results after intrauterine insemination under these circumstances.

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