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DNA Fragmentation Explained

DNA Fragmentation Explained

The term ‘DNA Fragmentation Index’ or DFI refers to the percentage of sperm in a particular semen sample with fragmented DNA. DNA fragmentation is a separate test to semen analysis and helps to identify if there is DNA damage present within the sperm which may be a contributing cause to infertility. A higher DNA fragmentation index means that a larger percentage of a person’s sperm contains genetic damage which may lead to male subfertility, IVF failure and miscarriage.

While a sperm analysis is still the most commonly used test when it comes to male infertility, research has shown that the results of sperm analysis do not always comprehensively indicate a man’s fertility potential. As a result, other ways to determine whether or not the sperm is optimal are needed. Successful embryo development requires, among other things, undamaged DNA from both the egg and sperm and it’s therefore important to know if there is damaged DNA within the sperm.


DNA fragmentation is sometimes caused by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress produces free radicals which attack the DNA molecule causing breaks in the DNA strands. Sperm DNA damage is often associated with certain lifestyle choices or underlying medical conditions:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Recreational drugs
  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Environmental and occupational pollutants
  • Pyrexia
  • Elevated testicular temperature
  • Varicocoele (variocose vein on the scrotum)
  • Illness or infection
  • Advanced chronological age Infection

Fertility Expert, Dr. Phil Boyle, says:
“There is growing scientific evidence to support DNA fragmentation testing for couples with infertility and recurrent miscarriage. It is widely recognised that the main cause of elevated DFI is oxidative stress caused by excessive free radicals. One simple way to combat extra free radicals is increasing antioxidant levels via diet and supplements. The cessation of smoking, drug use and alcohol consumption are other important factors. Treatment of infections, varicocele repair and anti-inflammatory medications can also help.”

So, what can be done to support men who present with higher than average DNA fragmentation in their sperm?


  • Talk to a fertility expert: They can often help you to improve your sperm quality through simple outpatient interventions.
  • Quit smoking: Tobacco is toxic to sperm. Smoking over 20 cigarettes a day reduces sperm count and motility. Smoking also produces free radicals that damage sperm’s DNA.
  • Limit alcohol
  • Recreational drugs: Cannabis affects sperm’s ability to find the egg, let alone fertilise it!
  • Eat healthily: A balanced diet has many health benefits, and sperm needs nutrients too.
  • De-stress: Stress produces free radicals which can limit sperm production and impact sperm DNA quality.
  • Stay cool: Sperm production is best at a lower temperature; tight underwear, compression shorts and sitting for long periods or cycling can damage your sperm.
  • Supplements: taking a tailored conception supplement, such as Proceive Max Men, can help to boost antioxidant levels.

As the male body makes new batches of sperm every 72 days, this mean with simple lifestyle changes and the introduction of a supplement such as Proceive Max Men, Improvements to the quantity and quality of sperm DNA could be seen in as little as 3 months.


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