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The Male Equation: The  Lifestyle for Men's Preconception Health 

Jessica Joseph, RN, BSN, MHA
May 2, 2023
Fertile Young Man
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Fifty percent of infertility problems come from issues with men’s reproductive health.  Sperm quality (quantity, movement, and shape), hormones, and reproductive physiology play a role. These factors include libido (sex drive), testosterone levels, and conditions such as erectile dysfunction. According to the Mayo Clinic, men have options to improve these factors.

How Men Can Improve Fertility

1. Eat organic fruits & vegetables and high-DHA foods: Foods high in antioxidants (berries, broccoli, spinach, kale, beans) can promote male fertility. Organic is preferable since they tend to be pesticide free. DHA-rich foods low in mercury, such as salmon and walnuts, can also improve fertility.

​2. Incorporate exercise: Men who exercise have better sperm quality than men who do not engage in physical activity. Sperm parameters have shown marked improvement with exercise and can increase testosterone levels naturally. 

 

3. Reduce stress: Cortisol levels are raised with stress, driving testosterone levels and libido down. Meditation, exercise, and socialization can help minimize stress levels.

 

4. Change lifestyle habits: Keeping the scrotum area cool might improve sperm quality. Avoid hot tubs and saunas; choose loose-fitting underwear (boxers instead of briefs), and keep devices away: cell phones and laptops should not be close to this area.

5. Decrease alcohol intake: avoid having more than two drinks daily since alcohol is linked to decreased testosterone and sperm production. 

 

6. Avoid smoking: Cigarette smoking can lead to erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm count.

 

7. Medication and supplements: If you are on certain medications, talk to your physician to determine if they can cause fertility issues.  Ask if they would recommend supplements to promote reproductive health. There are many on the market now that claim to improve sperm parameters.

 

8. Invest in a good sperm check kit: There are many at-home sperm check kit options on the market now that offer privacy and convenience.  Men may prefer to do preliminary testing at home to ascertain if their sperm counts are suitable or if they need further evaluation from a healthcare professional. They are a good first step to checking the status of your reproductive health.

 

9. Avoid synthetic testosterone use: According to reproductive urologist, Mary K. Samplaski, MD taking synthetic testosterone actually drives sperm counts down.  For more information on this topic, refer to Guided Fertility’s interview with Dr. Samplaski on Testosterone Use and Male Fertility.  

 

 

Sperm Evaluation

Physician Consult

There are several ways for men to get their sperm evaluated.  Reproductive urologists are fertility specialists who specialize in men's fertility health.  Most men are referred to urologists after a fertility consultation that might indicate something is wrong with their sperm parameters.  Reproductive urologists are equipped to find underlying issues that might prevent men from conceiving, such as hormonal issues, anatomical abnormalities, or congenital defects.

 

Home Sperm Testing

Some men may not be ready to have an evaluation with a physician. A more private and convenient option is to check sperm parameters at home.   There are a range of products on the market, such as Bird and Be Home Sperm Test, that offer the option to test at home.  Men might prefer this option for its convenience, privacy, and quicker results.   Fertility nutritionists might also recommend a fertility supplement for men who are over the age of 30 and trying to conceive, trying for over six months, or supported by a fertility clinic.

 

Sperm Parameters

Sperm parameters are indicators of men’s fertility health. The three parameters that can provide insight into sperm health are concentration, also referred to as quantity or sperm count; motility, which has to do with sperm movement; and morphology, which accounts for the shape of the sperm.

 

Quantity

The quantity of sperm is measured in two ways:

  1. The concentration, which is how much sperm is in one millimeter of semen

  2.  Sperm count, which is the total number of sperm in one sample  

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the normal concentration of sperm should be 15 million sperm per one milliliter of semen.  The reason why a high count is required is that statistically speaking, out of a million sperm, only one single sperm has a chance of reaching the egg for fertilization.

 

Motility

Sperm motility measures if the sperm can move adequately so it can reach the egg for fertilization in the woman’s reproductive tract. Andrologists (scientists who prepare and analyze sperm in a lab) consider 40% of motile sperm a good sample, and at least 32% need progressive motility, meaning moving in straight lines and large circles.

 

Morphology

Morphology has to do with the shape of the sperm.  Andrologists consider sperm normally shaped when it has an oval-shaped head, a midpiece commonly called the neck, and a long tail. However, most sperm are abnormally shaped, so a semen sample with 4% or higher normally shaped sperm is considered a good specimen.

 

Preconception health is a shared responsibility.  Prioritizing men's fertility health is a crucial aspect of family planning and ensuring a healthy start for future generations. By adopting a proactive approach towards their health, men can positively impact fertility outcomes and contribute to the overall well-being of their partners and children. From maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise to managing stress levels and avoiding harmful substances, there are several steps men can take to optimize their preconception health. By embracing these practices, men can not only enhance their own fertility but also play an active role in creating a strong foundation for a healthy and thriving family.

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