According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, male infertility issues account for 40% of all infertility problems. For those looking to conceive, the information may seem overwhelming. Luckily, simple lifestyle changes are often the thing that can improve sperm counts most. With that in mind, here are a few lifestyle tips for men that can greatly improve their overall well-being, including their fertility potential.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol
Alcohol has a detrimental effect on fertility. Heavy drinking by men can result in low levels of testosterone, reduced sperm production and altered sperm. Reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake can make a significant difference in sperm quality.
Keep your body temperature regulated
Elevated body temperature, especially around your scrotum, may have a role in reduced sperm production. Limiting or avoiding your time in hot tubs and saunas may be beneficial. You should also avoid tight-fitting pants and underwear and refrain from using your laptop on your lap for extended periods of time.
Smoking of any kind (cigarette, JUUL, E-Cig, cigars, marijuana, etc.) is harmful and counterproductive to a healthy conception, pregnancy and baby. Smoking is associated with impotence and erectile dysfunction. Nicotine and the more than 4,000 chemicals used in cigarettes have been associated with damage to genetic material. Studies suggest both smoke and smokeless tobacco impairs sperm function. Male smokers can experience decreased sperm quality, lower counts, motility and an increased number of abnormally shaped sperm. If you smoke, now is the time to stop. There are various smoking cessation programs that can help to support you.
Stress is a part of life but doing your best to control your body’s response to stress can have a beneficial effect on sperm production. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, meditate and do your best to avoid stressful situations when trying to conceive.
Pay close attention to your diet
Diets that include red meat, processed meats, butter, coconut oil, high-fat dairy, pizza, high-sugar energy drinks, sweets, alcohol and refined grains are associated with risk for low-sperm count and do not support fertility. Greater consumption of organic poultry, low-mercury fish and a Mediterranean-style diet will help toward healthy sperm counts.
Vitamins and supplements
For men planning for a pregnancy, vitamin supplementation with appropriate male-focused vitamins is encouraged. Additional zinc, folic acid, selenium and L-carnitine can be beneficial for sperm production. DHA, which is present in fish oil supplements, has also shown beneficial effects on sperm cell structure. Antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10, can even help protect the DNA quality inside the sperm.
On the other hand, “testosterone boosters” and anabolic steroids, such as testosterone gels or injections, can severely affect sperm production for extended periods of time. It is best to avoid these completely but use should certainly be discontinued as soon as pregnancy is contemplated.
The three-month plan
A sperm cell takes 90 days to fully develop and mature. When planning for the best quality sperm and lowest risk of male fertility issues, take three months to focus on these lifestyle changes as you plan for fatherhood. If you hit unexpected bumps in the road and pregnancy isn’t coming as easily as planned, be quick to plan a test to ensure everything is functioning normally. Much information is gained from a simple semen analysis, which is best if performed early on to ensure the easiest path to parenthood.
Now is the best time to start
At any point in your family-building journey, it will be beneficial to live a healthy lifestyle. Making the decision to educate yourself and take the steps to make beneficial changes now are two of the best things you can do as you prepare for parenthood.
Shaun Williams, M.D., is a partner in Reproductive Endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut and is board-certified in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. For more, visit rmact.com.