While women’s health is important to becoming pregnant, a man’s health is also important for male fertility. In order to become pregnant you need a healthy egg, but you also need healthy sperm. Sperm health is actually the result of the previous 3-4 months. So start making these changes as soon as possible.
#1 Take Vitamins
Unlike for women, men do not have to take a prenatal vitamin. Although you will find many products on the market targeted at men trying to conceive, like “male fertility vitamins”, the difference is mostly marketing. Men can choose from any of the multi-vitamins made specifically for men.
If you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you may not necessarily need a multi-vitamin. But you may be missing some essential nutrients without knowing. There is no harm to a multivitamin, so you are better off taking one.
#2 Wear Boxers, not Briefs
Testicles, or testes, function optimally at a slightly lower temperature than body temperature. In order for testes to produce sperm in sufficient quantity and quality, they must be able to cool off. Boxers allow testes more airflow and the ability to release heat. Avoid tight pants and briefs or boxer briefs as they will inhibit airflow and therefore decrease sperm production.
#3 Avoid Hot Tubs and Saunas
Hot tubs and saunas present the same challenge as briefs. Hot tubs and saunas increase the temperatures of testes, inhibiting sperm production. However, the effect is only temporary and does not damage the testes. If you have regularly enjoyed the sauna or hot tub in the past, you will experience an increase in sperm production when you start to avoid the sauna and hot tub.
#4 Limit Excessive Alcohol Intake
Moderate alcohol intake is unlikely to cause any negative impact on male fertility. However, heavy alcohol intake, such as binge drinking and alcoholism has been found to negatively impact sperm quality and quantity. If you are trying to become pregnant, try to avoid heavy drinking.
#5 Stop Smoking
In general everyone should stop smoking. But trying to get pregnant might just be the kick in the butt you need to finally quit. Male cigarette smoking has been found to decrease sperm quality parameters such as sperm motility, sperm concentration and sperm morphology. However, when men stop smoking sperm quality returns to non-smoking levels.
It is important to quit smoking for more than just improved fertility. According to a study from 2005, women exposed to second-hand smoke experienced decreased implantation and pregnancy rates. In fact, the study concluded that second-hand smoke was equally harmful for pregnancy achievement as if the woman herself smoked. Therefore, if a male partner smokes, he not only negatively affects his sperm, but he also negatively impacts the female partner.
Second- hand smoke is also dangerous during pregnancy and once the child is born. Second- hand smoke increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs) and asthma.
#6 Maintain a Healthy Weight
Multiple studies have found that male obesity is associated with infertility. It is likely that extra fat tissue alters male sex hormones. This negatively impacts sperm parameters. Weight and BMI similarly affect women’s fertility. So if you and your partner are trying to conceive, you can make it a team effort to exercise, eat right and get to a healthy weight. Ideally, a normal BMI is 18.5-25.
Learn more about the effect of female obesity on fertility in my previous article, “10 Steps to Start Trying to Get Pregnant”
#7 Look out for Phthalates
Phthalates are chemicals found in personal products, cosmetics, household cleaning products and plastic products. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors. This means they negatively alter hormone production and balance. Phthalates specifically target testosterone production. That can therefore lead to abnormal sperm production, inhibiting male fertility.
In order to reduce your exposure to phthalates, check the labels of common household products. Look for things that are labeled as “phthalate- free”. Even if you don’t see “phthalate” as an ingredient it could be hidden in “fragrance”.
Also, avoid plastic containers whenever possible. If you do use plastic, avoid using it for hot foods. The phthalates are transferred through heat. Even products that are labeled “BPA-free” can still contain phthalates. You can look for “phthalate-free” plastic, or just opt for ceramic or glass containers.
If Nothing Works…
If you have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months without success, you may want to consider a sperm analysis. This can tell you if there are issues with the quality and quantity of sperm. For help, see a urologist or infertility specialist in your area.