Paternal exposures – can they harm a future baby?

man-paintingYes, some can. A paternal exposure is something the father of a baby is exposed to before conception or during his partner’s pregnancy.  These exposures include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, chemotherapy, radiation.  Chemical products at work or in the environment, such as lead, organic solvents and pesticides, also fit into this category.

Unlike maternal exposures (read Things to Avoid),  paternal exposures do not appear to cause birth defects, according to current studies, but more research is needed in this area.  Some paternal exposures, however, can damage a man’s sperm quality, causing infertility or lengthy delay in conception or early pregnancy loss.  Research indicates that some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that might increase the risk of childhood cancer in a man’s children.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment.  Some men opt to bank their sperm before they receive treatment to preserve its integrity.

Again, further research into to the field of paternal exposures is needed to fully understand the risks associated with them.

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