Preparing for pregnancy isn’t just something for the girls. Fertility problems are equally likely to occur in men as women.
The good news is that there are a number of things that men can do to improve fertility and increase the chances of conceiving a healthy baby.
Here are the habits that matter most:
- If you smoke, quit. Both active and passive smoking harms sexual and reproductive health in both men and women. For men, it can damage sperm DNA and increase the chances of miscarriage and likelihood of your child developing childhood cancer.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol, particularly daily consumption and binge drinking, reduces fertility. If you choose to drink while trying to conceive, do so in moderation.
- Keep your weight healthy. Carrying excess weight is associated with reduced sperm concentration and mobility, damage to sperm DNA and changes in reproductive hormones, all of which can affect fertility.
- Exercise regularly. Spending too long sitting can affect sperm quality and reduce sperm production. Regular exercise has many health benefits and improving sperm quality is one of them!
- Eat a healthy diet. Diets high in antioxidant-rich plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and low in saturated fat, are associated with improved sperm quality.
- Avoid recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, which can decrease sperm quantity and increase the number of abnormal sperm.
- Don’t misuse anabolic steroids (e.g. for body-building purposes) as they can lead to shrunken testicles and stop sperm production.
- Have frequent sex. It’s a myth that sperm becomes more potent if a man abstains from sex or ejaculation. On the contrary, sperm that is stored for too long in the testicles can become damaged. So if you are trying for a baby, it is recommended that you ejaculate or have sex 2-3 times per week.
- Keep them cool. Sperm production is optimal when the temperature inside your scrotum is cool so choose boxer shorts or underwear with fabrics that allow for good airflow.
- Review your medications. If you take any prescription medications, check with your doctor if they could affect fertility and may need changing while you are trying to conceive.
- Minimise exposure to environmental chemicals. Chemicals that you may be exposed to at work or in daily life can affect your sperm, including pesticides, heavy metals, some chemicals and plastics and radiation. Try to limit your exposure to these and wear protective clothing if you are trying to conceive.
For more information:
Preconception Health for Men
References and further reading:
Salas-Huetos A1,2, Bulló M1,2, Salas-Salvadó J1, Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies. Hum Reprod Update. 2017 Jul 1;23(4):371-389.
Ricci E1, Al-Beitawi S2, Cipriani S1, Alteri A2, Chiaffarino F1, Candiani M3, Gerli S4, Viganó P2, Parazzini F1,5. Dietary habits and semen parameters: a systematic narrative review. Andrology. 2018 Jan;6(1):104-116.
Ricci E1, Al Beitawi S2, Cipriani S3, Candiani M2, Chiaffarino F3, Viganò P4, Noli S3, Parazzini F3. Semen quality and alcohol intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reprod Biomed Online. 2017 Jan;34(1):38-47.
Sharma R1, Harlev A2, Agarwal A3, Esteves SC4. Cigarette Smoking and Semen Quality: A New Meta-analysis Examining the Effect of the 2010 World Health Organization Laboratory Methods for the Examination of Human Semen. Eur Urol. 2016 Oct;70(4):635-645.
Christou MA1,2, Christou PA1, Markozannes G2, Tsatsoulis A1, Mastorakos G3, Tigas S4. Effects of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids on the Reproductive System of Athletes and Recreational Users: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2017 Sep;47(9):1869-1883.
Liu Y1, Ding Z2. Obesity, a serious etiologic factor for male subfertility in modern society. Reproduction. 2017 Oct;154(4):R123-R131.