Reproduction in the Space Environment: Part II. Concerns for Human Reproduction

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Abstract

Long-duration space flight and eventual colonization of our solar system will require successfulcontrol of reproductive function and a thorough understanding of factors unique to space flight and their impact on gynecologic and obstetric parameters. Part II of this paper examines the specific environmental factors associated with space flight and the implications for human reproduction.

Space environmental hazards discussed include radiation, alteration in atmospheric pressure and breathing gas partial pressures, prolonged toxicological exposure, and microgravity. The effects of countermeasures necessary to reduce cardiovascular deconditioning, calcium loss, muscle wasting, and neurovestibular problems are also considered. In addition, the impact of microgravity on male fertility and gamete quality is explored.

Due to current constraints, human pregnancy is now contraindicated for space flight. However, a program to explore effective countermeasures to current constraints and develop the required health care delivery capability for extended-duration space flight is suggested. A program of Earth- and space-based research to provide further answers to reproductive questions is suggested.

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