Let's start with the fertility fundamentals. It may seem obvious, but if you’re looking to optimise your fertility with a view to getting pregnant, you do need to be having regular sex to make a pregnancy likely. By regular, we mean at least two or three times a week. Doctors orders! If you're in a relationship with a woman, it's a good idea to have sex while your partner is ovulating (i.e.when eggs are being released from their ovaries).
There’s plenty of information available about the best times to get pregnant. There are also lots of things you can do to look after the health of your sperm and to increase the likelihood of your partner getting pregnant. In this article we'll cover the most important ways to optimise and improve your fertility as a man.
What can impact the health of your sperm
In this piece, we’ll look at the kind of lifestyle changes (and some medical interventions) that you can make to optimise your sperm health. It’s important to be aware that some medicines –either prescription treatments or medicines you can buy over the counter at a pharmacy –may affect male fertility. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, for example, this could affect your fertility in the short term or permanently. Extended use of some antibiotics can also have an impact on the health of your sperm, although these effects are usually reversed around three months after you cease taking the medicine.
How can you optimise and improve your fertility as a man
Weight, exercise and diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritious, balanced diet is essential for boosting your fertility and keeping your sperm in good nick.
- Although this is a broad measurement and individuals may need a more tailored approach to identifying the right weight for them, a body mass index (BMI) above 25 is generally agreed to indicate that you’re overweight, which may affect the quality of your sperm and how much you generate. If you’re trying for a baby and are overweight, it’s recommended that you lose weight by combining regular exercise with a healthy diet.
- The best template for a healthy diet can be found in the Eatwell Guide, which recommends:
- Meals based on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, rice, pasta or bread.
- Forms of protein are added to the mix – beans, pulses, meat, fish or tofu or eggs, for example.
- The inclusion of dairy or dairy alternatives.
- Always eating at least five portions of varied fruit and vegetables every day.
- Even if you don’t need to lose weight, you can protect your fertility by staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle.
Mental health and stress
- Severe stress can sometimes limit sperm production, and stress can also limit you or your partner’s libido, which could make it harder to have sex regularly.
- As a result, it’s important to learn to relax and to make lifestyle adjustments that will reduce the amount of stress you experience. Positive steps can include ensuring a healthy work-life balance, making time to engage in activities that you enjoy, breathing exercises, pursuing relaxing hobbies like yoga or meditation, and doing exercise to decompress.
Smoking, alcohol and recreational drug use
- Smoking is bad for your health in many ways, and it can certainly reduce your fertility. If you’re looking to increase or improve your fertility, it’s important to give up smoking (especially as, if you succeeded in having a baby, smoking around a new born would increase the risk of respiratory disease or cot death).
- In the UK, the Chief Medical Officer recommends that we drink no more than 14 units of alcohol weekly, which should be spread over three or more days. Drinking significantly more than this can affect the quality of your sperm, so it’s important not to drink excessively if you want to optimise your fertility.
- Recreational drugs including cocaine, cannabis and anabolic steroids can damage your sperm and reduce your fertility, so you should avoid taking these kinds of drugs if you’re trying to have a baby.
- For sperm to be at its healthiest, it must be kept cooler than the rest of your body – this is why testicles hold your sperm just outside the body.
- As a result, keeping your sperm cool (essentially by keeping yourself cool) is a sensible thing to do if you’re planning a pregnancy. If you sit for long periods at your job, get up and move around as regularly as you can. If you work in a hot environment, try to take regular breaks to cool down.
- Although there’s no hard evidence to show that tight underwear affects sperm quality, it is thought that tight pants can increase testicle temperature by around one degree Celsius. As such, in the period where you’re trying to get your partner pregnant, you may prefer to wear loose fitting underwear.
Every person or couple has a different experience when it comes to trying for a baby. Some people get pregnant quickly, and for others it can take much longer. If you’ve been trying for a baby for a year or more and your partner is not pregnant or if you'd like to get your sperm tested, it’s a good idea to speak to your Fertifa Patient Advisor who can help you with the next steps.
If you're not part of Fertifa, but you're interested in putting fertility support and benefits in place at work, get in touch here to book a call with our team. We'd love to chat about how we can help 💜