These simple daily changes may increase your chances of a successful conception.
Although the woman carries the child, the DNA and overall health of both parents can have a bearing for not only conception, but the health of the child in-utero and later in life.
For fertilisation to take place, a man must be able to maintain an erection, have enough sperm, and have sperm that are the right shape, size and power (as well as have enough semen to carry the sperm to the egg). It’s a tough task for your sperm and they’re against the odds, so it’s important to do everything that you can to keep your sperm healthy, happy and strong.
There are a range of factors that affect a man’s fertility, from lifestyle factors to environmental exposures. Your hormones and genetic makeup also play a role in the quality and health of your sperm.
“Isolating the exact cause of infertility can be difficult,” notes Dr. Jared Robins, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northwestern Medicine's Fertility and Reproductive Medicine in Chicago. “When there is a known cause of infertility, problems in the male partner tend to account for about 40 percent of infertile couples.”
Whether or not you’ve had your fertility tested, if you’re trying to conceive, make these 10 easy changes to your lifestyle now to give your sperm the best swimming chance possible.
1. Keep on top of any health conditions
If you have any chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, research says its important to make sure that you’re managing these conditions as they impact not only your overall health, but your sperm, too.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, cystic fibrosis, varicoceles (enlarged veins in the scrotum) and other medical conditions can also affect your fertility.
Some medications used to treat high blood pressure (such as beta blockers) and depression (SSRI’s) can damage your fertility, as can supplemental testosterone and some chemotherapy drugs.
Have a chat to your doctor and make sure any medications that you’re taking to manage your health conditions don’t have any sneaky side effects that might impact your fertility.
2. Healthy weight management
Being overweight can impact your sperm quality, reduce your sperm count, and decrease your sperm’s ability to swim in addition to increasing DNA damage in sperm, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
It’s suspected that being overweight tampers with your sperm health as too much body fat has been linked with changes in the levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormone levels in men.
When trying to lose weight, it’s important to consider your protein sources. Try and stick to lean proteins that will aid your body in building muscle mass whilst dropping excess kilos – as this body composition will help raise your resting metabolic rate, meaning that you burn more calories even whilst not physically exerting yourself and will better be able to manage your weight in the long term.
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3. Regular exercise
Not only does exercise help reduce stress and boost endorphins, it boosts your testosterone production which can have a trickle-down effect of improving the overall quality of your sperm in terms of motility, volume and sperm DNA.
4. A diet in tip-top shape
Ensuring that you’re consuming a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, antioxidants and whole grains can help you feel fuller for longer which, in turn, can reduce snacking and binge-eating (often on salty, sweet or fatty foods that our brain craves when we’re not adequately nourishing ourselves) that can lead to weight gain, diabetes and lethargy.
5. Consider your underwear choice.
The scrotum hangs away from the body to keep the temperature of your testicles 2-3 degrees cooler than the rest of your body. It’s been theorised that tight underwear that pushes your testicles closer to your body (and increases the temperature of your sperm past a level that’s considered healthy for them) might negatively impact your sperm quality.
There’s not a lot of conclusive science yet on whether tight underwear can negatively impact fertility itself on a long-term basis, but if you’re concerned with sperm quality in the short term whilst trying to conceive, consider switching from briefs to boxers.
Your underwear isn’t the only factor in your sperm health though, so if boxers don’t do it for you, wear whatever you are most comfortable in whilst trying for a baby and pay attention to the rest of your lifestyle factors instead.
6. Play it cool
If you enjoy long, hot soaks in the bath or spa, or luxuriating in a sauna maybe take a break while trying for a family.
Although heat exposure won’t have a permanent impact on your sperm, short term positive impacts can be experienced by keeping out of the heat. This also includes avoiding placing hot laptops on your lap.
7. Keep it clean
We all know the general health warnings around smoking cigarettes. Nicotine also impacts your sperm quality, which many men are surprised to learn.
“Male smokers are likely to have low sperm counts and decreased sperm movement, and they have higher numbers of abnormally-shaped sperm,” cites the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Recreational drug usage (such as marijuana) should also be avoided, as sperm production can be slowed. It takes around 3 months for a fresh batch of sperm to be produced so if you know that you plan to conceive in the coming months, ramp up your efforts to quit now.
8. Tick Tock
A ticking biological clock is not just the territory of women – men also experience declining fertility as they age, although the declines that men experience typically occur later than in women.
As men get older, both the volume and quality of semen is likely to diminish, and they will also experience a drop-off in the number of healthy, well-moving sperm. DNA damage to sperm is also more likely the older a man gets.
And, similar to the fertility changes in women, the older a man is when he conceives, the greater the risk exists for genetic abnormalities in the sperm that may be passed on to the foetus.
9. Consider testing both of your fertility
If you find that you and your partner are trying to conceive without much luck – and your lifestyle factors all seem to be in check – consider seeking professional help. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine defines infertility as the inability of a sexually active couple to conceive after one year of actively trying to fall pregnant.
“A woman who is under the age of 35 and her partner should try to become pregnant for one year without success before seeking an infertility evaluation,” advises Dr. Robins, adding that for women who are older than 35, the time of actively trying to fall pregnant should be reduced to 6 months before being tested for infertility. Ultimately, a couple’s attempts in trying for a family is an intimate and personal journey.
Although it can be filled with much confusion and overwhelm in any lifestyle changes that might be required to help you conceive, it’s important to keep a positive mindset. Use this catalyst for lifestyle change as an opportunity to better yourself from the inside out… you’ll reap countless positive benefits to your overall quality of life for years to come (and be fit and healthy when your child is born!)