Pre-Conception Health for Him
When it comes to the pregnancy journey there is a lot of focus on the mum-to-be. But it takes two to tango when making a baby, so while your partner may be doing everything she can to support conception, there is still one other factor…your reproductive health.
Approximately 40-50% of infertility cases are caused by problems with the male sperm[i]. It can be a hard topic to broach but bear in mind that there are several lifestyle and health tips you can follow to support the ability of your sperm to reach the egg. We look into what dad-to-be can do to support this journey.
Avoid the tight squeeze
Tight clothing around the crotch can reduce the testicles’ ability to produce sperm, if worn on a regular basis. If you are a fan of tight jeans or spandex, it might be a good option to wear more loosing fitting pants, at least while you’re trying to have kids.
Another factor is wearing briefs all the time. Many men can support their sperm count simply by switching to boxer shorts[ii]. It doesn’t have to be a complete transition, simply wearing looser fitting pants and/or boxers whilst at home or on weekends will give the testicles more time to perform their work uninterrupted.
There are many substances and chemicals that can affect a man’s sperm production and quality. Typically, they exist in the workplace (industrial and laboratory) but can appear in other places or in medication and drugs. The hazardous chemicals usually come with a warning, so it’s important to check if you are exposed to any and seek ways you might be able to avoid or reduce the exposure to them.
Reduce the heat
The production of sperm is a very delicate process that requires the temperature inside the testicles to be between 35°C and 36°C[iii]. Thus, while you’re trying for kids, avoid or reduce the time spent in a hot bath, spa and sauna because they can significantly raise the temperature of the testicles and could impact sperm count.
Other factors that can raise the temperature between the legs are sleeping with an electric blanket or - what is now a common factor - placing a laptop on the lap while you use it. Laptops can generate significant amount of heat, so it’s preferable that you keep the laptop on the desk or places a cushion or something underneath to absorb most of the heat.
Avoid alcohol and other substances
The same rules apply for both parties here. Alcohol[iv] and cigarette smoke[v] can lower the sperm count and even reduce their ability to swim. If you ty and reduce the amount you drink or smoke, it could have a positive effect on your sperm. If you can cut back considerably, or even stop completely, then that’s even better. This also includes the use of recreational drugs, which have a negative link to sperm production[vi].
If you’re in good physical shape, then it’s more likely your sperm will be as well. Men who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience reproductive challenges than those in the healthy normal weight range. A balanced diet and exercise regime is a vital component for losing excess kgs and maintaining that healthy weight. In addition, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is important for maintaining a healthy sperm count[vii] and regular exercise stimulates the production of testosterone, the hormone that helps trigger sperm production[viii].
Trying to make a baby can be stressful for everyone involved. There can be a lot of pressure for a man to perform, whether it’s through external sources or the pressure you place on yourself. On top of that, there are the everyday stressors of work, finances and family.
Stress is a common factor which can influence conception health as it stimulates the release of cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with sperm production[ix]. Thus, it’s important to be relaxed, well rested and not stressed. This will not only benefit sperm production but also general mood and performance in bed.
It’s important when trying for kids that you are at - or close to - optimum health to support conception. A visit to the doctor is recommended to make sure you are fit, healthy and raring to go. This is particularly important if you have been trying for a while, as a doctor can check sperm count and quality, to pinpoint any potential challenges that may be impacting your ability to conceive.
Preparing for the pregnancy journey is important for both men and women. The best chances of falling pregnant and having a healthy baby comes when both partners take steps to support their health and wellbeing before conception.
[i] Kumar & Singh 2015 J Hum Reprod Sci 8(4): 191-6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691969/
[ii] Minguez-Alarcon et al. 2018 Hum Reprod 33(9): 1749-56 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... Jurewicz et al. 2014 Syst Biol Reprod Med https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... & Povey et al. 2012 Hum Reprod https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22695289
[iv] Ricci et al 2017 Reprod Biomed 34(1): 38-47 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28029592
[v] Sharma et al. 2016 Eur Urol 70(4):635-45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27113031
[vi] Gundersen et al. 2015 182(6):473-81 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2628309
[vii] Nassan et al. 2018 Fertil Steril 110(4):570-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30196939
[viii] Tanner et al. 2014 J Sports Sci 32(7):680-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24279436
[ix] Clarke et al. 1999 Hum Reprod 14(3):753-8. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/14/3/753/632916