Approximately 15 percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant, with 40 percent of infertility diagnoses due to male infertility.
The advice for women trying to conceive is well-known and easy to find. What about ways for men to optimize their fertility?
For Dads-to-be, there are several different tips that can help boost male fertility. Here are eight tips and tricks that can increase your chances of conception.
Drop those extra pounds.
Sperm production is at its best when you are a normal, healthy weight. Studies show that men who are overweight or obese have decreased sperm production. Carrying extra weight increases fat cells which produce estrogen, causing a hormonal imbalance that can disrupt normal sperm production. Don’t reach for the quick fix either - weight loss supplements often affect sperm production.
Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and excessive caffeine.
Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine have been associated with decreased sperm function as toxins damage the sperm. For men trying to conceive, I recommend eliminating tobacco, consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and no more than six per week, and drinking less than 300 mg of caffeine per day. A typical cup of coffee has approximately 100mg of coffee, and a soda typically has about 50 mg.
Stay away from heat.
Avoid baths or saunas with very hot temperatures. Immersion in hot water increases the temperature in the scrotum leading to damaged sperm production. It’s also best to avoid laptop computers and cell phones in the front pocket. Overexposure to hot temperatures can take approximately three months to recover healthy sperm production.
Skip the lubricants.
Even though they can make intercourse more enjoyable, most lubricants - including saliva, KY jelly, and olive oil - are toxic to sperm. If you do need to use something, the less toxic lubricants are “pre-seed”, mineral oil, and canola oil, but they should be used sparingly.
Avoid testosterone or testosterone-like products.
Sometimes men I talk to don’t even realize they are taking testosterone substances. These can be either doctor prescribed, recreational for body building, or even over the counter supplements. There are many supplements that are sold at nutrition stores that contain testosterone or testosterone-like products. These products send messages to the testicles that there is enough testosterone around so the brain can stop sending the signals to make sperm. One recent study found that almost 90 percent of men taking these supplements had no sperm. If you are taking one of these over the counter supplements, stop immediately. The damage done is often reversible, but can take three months or longer. If you are taking doctor prescribed testosterone, check with your doctor before discontinuing.
Avoid exposure to toxins.
I have a lot of patients who worked at the mill or railroad who were exposed to toxins and had abnormal sperm as a result. Sometimes this exposure is unavoidable depending on your work environment, but try to avoid toxins and chemicals where possible. Use BPA free plastics for food and water bottles, avoid paint fumes, and stay away from chemicals. Sperm are sensitive little guys!
Choose exercise that is sperm-friendly.
Rest assured, most exercise is sperm-friendly. Some activities such as hot yoga or bicycle riding can increase temperature in the scrotum, which can interfere with normal sperm production.
Have frequent intercourse, especially around the time of ovulation.
This can be challenging with the demands of everyday life. I recommend intercourse every one or two days around time of ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs 11-21 days after the first day of the menstrual period, but can vary. To help focus efforts, women can buy ovulation kits at the pharmacy. These kits measure urine levels of the hormone LH or Luteinizing hormone. This hormone rises about 12-36 hours before ovulation. I recommend having intercourse the day the kit turns positive as well as the following day.
When should you see a specialist?
After a year, 85 percent of young couples will have conceived. If the female partner is under 35, then you should see a fertility specialist after you have tried to conceive for one year. But if the female partner is 35 or older, seek a consultation if it has been longer than six months.
There can be reasons to seek consultation sooner, such as abnormal menstrual cycles or difficulty with erections or ejaculations. If you experience testicular pain, abnormal discharge from the penis, swelling in the scrotum, or small testicles, it is best to seek medical expertise immediately.
Dr. Allison K. Rodgers
Dr. Rodgers is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and has been practicing medicine since 2004. She completed her residency at Case Western Reserve-Metrohealth Medical Center/Cleveland Clinic, followed by fellowship at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Dr. Rodgers' personal experiences with both secondary infertility and pregnancy loss have given her a unique insight into reproductive medicine, and she is well known for her compassionate and individualized patient care. She has published many original research articles in top medical journals on topics such as endometriosis, tubal factor infertility, in vitro fertilization, and donor sperm. Her special interests include in vitro fertilization, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, unexplained infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, and premature ovarian insufficiency.