For all those with plans to be a parent, and especially for all men ready to be a dad, there is a big secret that few know about — and even fewer want to talk about. Factors attributable to men account for HALF of all identifiable causes of infertility. It really does take two to tango, and men are just as likely to be the one stepping on the toes of their partner when infertility becomes a reality.
To minimize the risk of male factor problems, planning for the healthiest, most fertile sperm should be at the top of the list for men. Here are seven tips for how to increase men’s fertility naturally.
1. Excess Fat Is Bad
The risks of diabetes and heart disease are higher in men with excess body fat. Diabetes can lead to significant pelvic nerve damage resulting in erectile dysfunction. But just an increase in body fat alone has a significant impact on sperm production as well as testosterone production.
Extra body fat produces more estrogen, the primary female reproductive hormone, which interferes with normal male reproductive hormone function. Dropping a few pounds can increase testosterone production and sperm production, and weight management can give you more years of healthy living to enjoy being a dad.
2. Get Active
Increased physical activity, including both cardiovascular training and weight resistance training, is associated with increased semen parameters, higher testosterone production, increased sex drive, and better overall well-being. In addition to helping burn calories and prevent excess fat, physical activity alone can help naturally improve male reproductive function.
3. Choose the Right Fuel
The age-old saying is right — We are what we eat. — and male reproductive function can be altered by dietary choices. The “Western” diet rich in red and processed meats, refined grains, high energy drinks, and sweets can lead to sperm production problems. Other diets, such as the “Mediterranean” diet are high in omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils), antioxidants, and higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotene, and lycopene.
Avoiding foods that are high in trans-fats can improve sperm function as well. Common foods high in trans-fats include desserts and baked goods such as cookies, cakes donuts and pastries, cheeses (such as in pizza), sausages, hotdogs, bacon, and ribs, French fries, and fatty beef.
4. Use Smart Supplements
There are many ”enhancements” for male fertility and function on the market, many with no true benefits. Avoid any “testosterone boosters” or other herbal male performance enhancers. It is likely they have no benefit and may have adverse effects on sperm production. A reliable brand of a men’s vitamin is encouraged. Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, lycopene, and l-carnitine are supplements that have physiologic benefits for healthy sperm production. Anti-oxidants such as Coenzyme Q-10 can also improve the integrity of the sperm DNA.
5. Avoid Intoxicants
Some intoxicants such as alcohol and nicotine have proven adverse effects on sperm production and function. Cut back on drinking, avoid smoking, and stop the vaping if you want to have the best chance to have a healthy pregnancy. Other intoxicants such as marijuana, narcotics, and stimulants can only harm sperm health. It is best to avoid all intoxicants for several months prior to pregnancy. Your future healthy children will thank you for keeping them in mind at this important time.
6. No Juicing
Anabolic steroid use is very prevalent among men just looking to get a boost in the gym. Testosterone injections or other androgenic steroids are absolute inhibitors of sperm production. These steroids have been used as male contraceptives, and long term use of steroids can result in permanent inhibition of sperm production. Testicular size decreases as the body no longer needs to make its own testosterone, and sperm production is shut down as well. Even testosterone replacement for men with “low T” will severely affect sperm production.
Keep off the steroids if you really want to be the virile male your partner desires.
7. Embrace an Open, Proactive Mindset
Men can have problems that can be difficult to overcome, even when following natural steps to enhance reproductive health. If you do experience infertility, be quick to take control and find out if there is a male issue. A simple semen analysis, that can be performed at most fertility clinics and urology offices, is all that is needed to identify significant problems. Stepping up to check this early is encouraged.
Infertility can cause significant relationship problems, and if there is a problem with sperm production, understanding that this is common allows couples to focus more on what to do about sperm issues. There are treatments available that can overcome almost all forms of male factor infertility, and being open and willing to take advantage of these options proves that you are prepared to do what is necessary for you and your partner.
You’ve planned to be a parent for many years, and this short term dedication to your reproductive health and potential is well worth the effort.
And remember, men are not in this alone. Almost all of these choices can improve female fertility as well, and choosing to prepare for pregnancy together will only improve your relationship regardless of your fertility. Nothing can show you care more about your partner than a dedication to your health, to your partner’s health, and to the health of the kids that you plan to have together.
About the Author
Dr. Shaun C. Williams is a Partner in Reproductive Endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) and is board-certified in both Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.