A North American prospective study of depression, psychotropic medication use, and semen quality

A history of diagnosed depression and severe depressive symptoms at enrollment were associated with low semen volume, but the results were inconsistent for the other semen parameters studied.

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VOLUME 116, ISSUE 3, P833-842


Jennifer J. Yland, M.S., Michael L. Eisenberg, M.D., Elizabeth E. Hatch, Ph.D., Kenneth J. Rothman, Dr.P.H., Craig J. McKinnon, Ph.D., Yael I. Nillni, Ph.D., Greg J. Sommer, Ph.D., Tanran R. Wang, M.P.H., Lauren A. Wise, Sc.D.



To evaluate the associations of a history of diagnosed depression, current depressive symptoms, and recent use of psychotropic medications with semen quality and to consider mediation of the association between depression and semen quality by medication use.


Prospective cohort study.


United States.


The patients were 329 men aged ≥21 years (566 semen samples) who participated in a semen-testing substudy of Pregnancy Study Online. Pregnancy Study Online is an ongoing, web-based preconception cohort study of couples attempting to conceive. At baseline, participants reported information about depression diagnosis, depressive symptoms using the Major Depression Inventory, medication use in the last 4 weeks, and selected covariates.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

The men used an at-home semen-testing kit (Trak; Sandstone Diagnostics, Inc., Pleasanton, California) to measure semen volume, sperm concentration, and motile sperm concentration. We calculated percent motility, total sperm count in the ejaculate, and total motile sperm count.


Forty-nine men (15%) reported a history of depression diagnosis, and 41 (12%) reported recent use of psychotropic medications. A history of depression diagnosis was associated with a 4.3-fold increase in the risk of low semen volume (<1.5 mL) (95% CI 1.16, 16). A 5-unit increase in Major Depression Inventory score was associated with a 1.38-fold increase in the risk of low semen volume (95% CI 0.92, 2.1). The results for other semen parameters were inconsistent. Recent use of psychotropic medications was associated with worse semen quality, and this association was confounded by a history of depression diagnosis. The observed association between depression and semen volume showed little mediation by psychotropic medication use.


A history of diagnosed depression and severe depressive symptoms at enrollment were associated with low semen volume.

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.