Does space travel affect your ability to conceive a baby later in life?
There might come a day when ordinary humans decide to travel to space for pleasure or other purposes. In this article, we explore the potential effects of space travel on your fertility.
This article is written by the Eggschain editors, medically reviewed by Dr. Hugh Taylor, MD.
Short explanation: Space travel exposes people to multiple potential reproductive hazards, including cosmic radiation, micro gravity and hyper gravity. As a result, one or more such hazards could affect your ability to conceive naturally, post space travel.
Cosmic radiation includes 1)galactic cosmic rays (high energy charged particle radiation that originates outside the Solar System), and 2)solar particle events (accelerated emission of particles from the Sun into interplanetary space).
Effects on women: Exposure to high charge and energy particles may result in accelerated depletion of the ovarian reserve and premature ovarian failure;
Effects on men: by contrast, spermatogonial stem cells in the testis can potentially be fairly radioresistant, allowing spermatogenesis to recover. However, this is not to say that it is completely safe for men to travel to deep space.
This is because, to date, experiments have used HZE particle beams composed of a single species that are not representative of space radiation. Future studies should examine the effects of mixed particle beams more representative of galactic cosmic rays or solar particle events on spermatogenesis (sperm studies) and folliculogenesis (female reproductive organ studies).
Net net, more studies need to be conducted in order to understand the long term effect of space travel on men and women and any transgenerational effects on reproduction, meaning we need to understand more regarding the issue whether space travel can affect the ability to reproduce of your grandchildren or great grandchildren.
Since studies done so far has not been representative of deep space travel, so more research is warranted for a definitive conclusion. As a result, people should always err on the side of caution. One should assume that there may be damage to your reproductive system. Routinely, astronauts have been advised to freeze their eggs or sperm ahead of deep space travel. However, freezing reproductive specimen is an individual’s choice.
Please consult your doctor for any medical advice.
Reproductive hazards of space travel in women and men
Nature Reviews Endocrinology 15(Suppl. 1)
Birendra Mishra, Ulrike Luderer