What is Male Fertility?
Male fertility is every bit as complicated and mysterious as female fertility. And while most people relate male fertility to sperm quality, there may be other factors at play. Fertility can also be affected by sexual function, semen quality or challenges due to an underlying physical condition. The most common factors affecting a man’s fertility are:
- Sperm Count: One of the most important factors in male fertility are semen quality and sperm count. The average man has 15-200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Fewer than 15 million sperm means you have a low sperm count, which decreases the odds for fertilization.
- Sperm Motility: Even if your sperm count is normal, a semen analysis can assess the sperm’s motility (movement). Low sperm motility (also called asthenozoospermia) means that the majority of sperm aren’t swimming properly and may not be able to get to an egg and fertilize it.
- Sperm Morphology: Abnormalities in a sperm’s morphology (shape) and size can make it more difficult to penetrate and fertilize an egg. A normal sperm has a smooth, oval-shaped head, a well-defined cap that covers 40-70 percent of the sperm head and no visible abnormality of the neck, midpiece or tail.
- Testosterone: The male hormone testosterone is a necessary component of sperm production, and low testosterone levels may indicate insufficient sperm for fertilization. Low testosterone levels may also result in erectile dysfunction or even a loss of desire (low libido).
- Erectile Dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction, also known as ED or impotence, is the inability for a man to maintain an erection. Physical issues like heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking can all cause erectile dysfunction. Mental health issues and stress can also contribute to ED.
- Low Libido: Libido refers to your desire to have sex. Low libido, like erectile dysfunction, may be related to many factors, including medications you take, low testosterone, depression or stress, substance abuse or a hormonal issue.
Is There a Way to Improve My Fertility?
The good news is there are things you and your partner can both do to boost your fertility together.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Eat a healthy diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and enjoy grains and cereals fortified with folate. You might already know the importance of folic acid in preventing birth defects, but getting enough folate in your diet also helps ensure your sperm will be healthy. Men with low folic acid levels are more prone to producing sperm with chromosomal abnormalities, also leading to birth defects and miscarriage.
- Get plenty of sleep: According to a study published in 2020 by the National Institute of Health, poor sleep habits and lack of restful sleep interferes with your wellness on many different levels, including your semen quality. So guys, make sure you get your full eight hours!
- If you smoke, stop now: As if there weren’t already enough reasons to stop smoking, there’s also a direct link between low sperm count and poor motility and smoking–both cigarettes and cannabis. Doctors advise stopping smoking at least three months prior to trying to conceive as that’s the amount of time it takes for the effects to stop showing up in your semen. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to stop.
- Limit alcohol and illicit drugs: Alcohol reduces your sperm production and interferes with sperm’s movement. Alcohol also causes poor sexual performance, so you should limit your intake to the occasional social drink. It should go without saying that you should also stop any recreational drug use prior to trying to conceive as this can increase the chance of chromosomal abnormalities and miscarriage.
- Cut back on those lattes: Caffeine, including coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks interfere with the concentration of sperm in your semen and lowers sperm count. Most doctors advise you (and your partner) to cut down to no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. Here is a chart to help you identify how much caffeine is in your favorite drink.
- Take prenatal supplements: Both you and your partner contribute genetic material to your baby-to-be so it’s in your interest to be as healthy as possible before you conceive. It’s nearly impossible to get everything you need from your diet alone, which is why prenatal vitamins are a good idea for men and women. There are specific fertility vitamins for men that contain B12, vitamins C and E as well as zinc to help maintain testosterone and selenium levels and selenium to improve sperm count and reduce the risk for birth defects.
- Reduce stress: While some level of stress is almost impossible to avoid, its impact on your health is truly damaging. Heart disease, digestive issues, depression, diabetes, hypertension, sleep disorders, and even Alzheimer’s disease are all linked to chronic stress. Stress also impacts fertility by increasing the number of abnormal sperm, reducing sperm concentration, and affecting both libido and erectile function.
- Get aerobic: One way to combat stress is through regular exercise. Go outside for a run or walk in nature. Grab a buddy and hit the gym. Swim, golf, play tennis or pickleball. Any activity you enjoy that gets your heart pumping and those endorphins flowing will help combat stress and keep you healthy. Exercise also improves circulation which keeps your reproductive system in top condition.
Schedule a Preconception Check Up
One of the best ways to ensure your fertility is to meet with your doctor to go over any concerns you may have and make sure you’re at your healthiest for the journey ahead. Contact Reproductive Health and Wellness today and let us guide you along your path to parenthood.
At Reproductive Health and Wellness Center, we are experts at treating fertility issues. We provide the latest in cutting-edge embryo science by using the latest technologies, and we create innovative fertility plans tailored specifically to each individual. But we’re so much more.