June is Men’s Health Month, and according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, male factor infertility issues account for 40% of all infertility problems. For those looking to conceive, the information may seem overwhelming, but it's often the most simple lifestyle changes that can improve sperm counts.
With that in mind, and in the spirit of Men's Health Month, here are the top seven lifestyle tips for men that can help improve their overall well-being, including their fertility potential.
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1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Stop Smoking
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 and 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 several smoking cessation programs that can help to support you.
4. Limit Stress
Stress is a part of life, but doing your best to control your body’s response to stress can have an impact on sperm production. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, meditate and do your best to avoid stressful situations when trying to conceive.
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5. 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 towards healthy sperm counts.
6. Vitamins and Supplements
For men planning for 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, present in fish oil supplements, has also shown beneficial effects on sperm cell structure, and anti-oxidants, such as co-enzyme Q10, can 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. These are best avoided and should be discontinued as soon as pregnancy is contemplated.
7. The Three Month Plan
Did you know that a sperm cell takes 90 days to fully develop and mature? When planning for the best quality sperm and least risk of male fertility issues, take three months to focus on these lifestyle changes while planning for fatherhood.
If you hit unexpected bumps in the road and pregnancy isn’t coming as easily as planned, then be quick to plan a test to ensure all is functioning normally. Much information is gained from a simple semen analysis, and this is best 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 positive changes now are two of the best things you can do as you prepare for parenthood.
Want to Learn More About Men's Health?
I joined host Matt Boley to talk about all things men’s health and fertility during Men's Health Month. Watch this instant replay of our Instagram Live by clicking below to learn facts about men’s health, fertility-related tips for men, and hear a Q&A session with real questions from patients.
Dr. Shaun C. Williams is a Partner and fertility specialist at Illume Fertility. He is board certified in both Reproductive Endocrinology and Obstetrics and Gynecology and has been working with fertility patients in Connecticut since 2005.