Men and Pregnancy: How to Improve Sperm Quality
Why We Need to Improve Sperm Quality
In the last few years, it has been reported that sperm levels in men have decreased significantly over the last few decades. Most notably, there have been a lot of articles online discussing the findings of a study by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem of men from North America, Europe and Australia over the last 40 years that show sperm levels have dropped by over 50%. The reasons for this are not clear cut, but there have been plenty of suggestions as to why this may be.
Regardless of the reasons, this finding can have a great impact on you and your partner when trying to get pregnant. It is definitely a factor that should be looked at if you are having problems conceiving.
Whether you have had your levels tested or not, there are things that you can do to optimize your chances of getting pregnant.
What Should Men Do When Trying to Conceive?
Generally, when it comes to conception, a lot of the same rules that apply to women also apply to men. However, there are also some in particular that can help men increase their fertility.
- Certain medications should be avoided because of their negative effects on sperm quality.
- Consider taking pre-pregnancy vitamins for men. Yes, they do exist.
- Keep your sperm cool. Wear loose-fitting undergarments and avoid hot baths.
- Limit your time on a bike. You may normally like to cycle, but the compression shorts and hard saddles may decrease sperm production.
- Don't drink or smoke. This should go without saying, but cutting out alcohol and smoking can benefit your overall health as well as your sperm.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Keeping your body healthy is the easiest thing you can do to help your chances of conceiving.
I have to say that it never really occurred to me to think about what men should do when trying for a baby until my partner asked me what he could and couldn’t do before we tried. I think most people take for granted the fact that there are millions of sperm, but sperm are not always perfect at doing their job. In fact, it is just as important for the man as it is for the woman to be healthy and take care of himself.
So when I was trying to get pregnant, I started looking around to find out if there were some particular guidelines for men in regards to pregnancy—it turns out, there are. Most of what I found is pretty much common sense; things that you might have already thought about doing. However, there are a few that I really wouldn't have thought about and that I didn't know would make any difference in increasing male fertility. I will summarise what I've found from all of my research.
The 3-Month Rule
The first thing to point out is that sperm are actually take about three months before they become mature, so it is important that guys be proactive. Changes like cutting down on bad habits, improving your diet, and taking your vitamins should be be done at least three months before you and your partner plan to conceive.
The exact amount of time until maturation has not been scientifically proven. The Open University gives a figure between 9 weeks and 72 days, whereas other publications say 11-12 weeks. Nevertheless, for anyone trying to improve their sperm quality, three months can be a good time to start making changes.
Tips for Men Trying to Conceive
Men should check with their doctor about the effect any medications they are taking may have on sperm quality. In particular, anti-cancer drugs, some anabolic steroids, and some antibiotics can have a negative impact on sperm count and morphology.
Women are often recommended pre-pregnancy vitamins, including the 400 micrograms a day of folic acid, but men are also recommended to take sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, E, zinc, and folic acid.
Sperm is much happier at slightly cooler temperatures, which is why men are generally recommended to steer clear of hot tubs and saunas. Some also suggest that men wear boxer shorts rather than any tight-fitting underpants to keep the little guys cooler.
The combination of compressions shorts and pressure from the saddle can have a negative impact on sperm quality. Limiting cycling time to a maximum of 30 minutes a day is the most common recommendation I've seen.
5. Smoking and Alcohol
Women are often advised to stop drinking and smoking when trying to conceive, but the same advice goes for men as well. Cutting down or stopping these habits can help improve sperm health.
6. Healthy Diet
Guys should adopt a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. This, in combination with the other tips, puts you in best position to conceive a baby.
Although it is not always possible to plan too far ahead, start on a healthy path as soon as you can. Many people who have been diagnosed with low sperm count, morphology, or motility have been able to increase the quality of their sperm by doing the things listed above.
When we received the results of my partner's semen analysis, I was told that I would not be able to get pregnant without intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, after reading up on methods that we could do ourselves to help improve sperm count, my partner started wearing looser clothing, avoided too much heat around his lower regions, and taking every day (because it contains all of the vitamins discussed above). After about three months, I was able to get pregnant. FertilAid
© 2011 Jackie Grant