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So, you’ve met the girl, got that promotion, done the big fairytale wedding, and bought that house which instead of being near your favourite wine bars and restaurants, has the big garden and is conveniently located close to good schools and other amenities.
Your darling wife has changed her job from that top paying one, to the lower paying one with great maternity pay, and childcare facilities. You both decide that you are finally ready to make babies. But of course things don’t quite go to plan. After two years of diligently reading every pregnancy book, and knowing your wife’s ovulation period better than your own body, there is still no joy on the baby front.
You decide to get reassurance that everything is fine, but of course fail to do so. Your lovely wife is as fertile as an eighteen year old girl, but you are told by the gynaecologist that had insisted on sending you for sperm analysis as well as your wife that there is a male factor issue. Your sperm count, motility and morphology are all sub-standard, that a special type of IVF, ICSI is your only real option of conceiving if there is no improvement in your sperm quality. You are suddenly introduced to a whole new world that you have no desire of becoming a member of, but suddenly find yourself a fully paid up member.
You have spent the last few weeks feeling sorry for yourself, feeling as if your manhood has been challenged, wondering whether your darling wife would dump you for a super sperm machine, and going off sex, after all what is the bloody point.
But now you are ready to snap out of it and at least try and do something to help to improve your sperm analysis results.
The good news is that improving sperm quality and helping your fertility whilst trying to conceive naturally or by IVF, is easier than you think. However, give yourself plenty of time to see any results as it takes about three months for the body to manufacture a new batch of sperm. If you start your health regime today, you should ideally expect to see results in three months time.
20 top tips for improving male fertility
1. Improve your diet
If you can only make one change in diet, then as much as possible eat organic food, especially fruits and vegetables. If you cannot afford organic food, do not worry. Just ensure that you eat a healthy well balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, fibre, protein and complex carbohydrate. This will ensure that you get a good supply of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants essential for good sperm health.
Include food rich in Vitamin E which is important for sperm motility and ability to penetrate egg and can be found in oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, nuts and seeds, wholegrain, eggs, and dark green vegetables.
Selenium is an important mineral for good sperm health and helps to improve sperm motility and testosterone. It can be found in Brazil nuts, avocado, shell fish, brown rice, oat, garlic, and onions.
Vitamin C is another essential vitamin for good sperm health and stops sperm from clumping. In addition to citrus fruits, you can get your fix of Vitamin C in fruits and vegetables including kiwi fruit, strawberries, red pepper, broccoli, brussel sprouts, melon, and watercress.
Vitamin B12 helps with sperm count and motility and is found naturally in meat, trout, salmon, eggs, and cheese such as edam cheese is essential for sperm health.
Zinc is considered one of the most important elements for sperm production. Its deficiency may lower testosterone. It is naturally found in eggs, meat, fish, chicken, in seeds such as pumpkin seed and sunflower seeds, wholegrain, and in beans and other pulses.
Folic acid has historically been known as essential for female fertility health. This acid is also important for sperm health and can be found naturally in dark green vegetables, asparagus, avocado pear, beans, dried figs and lentils.
Arginine is important for sperm motility and can be found in nuts such as walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, and in beans, lentils and fish.
Carnitine helps to stimulate sperm motility and count and can be found in beef, pork, lamb and dairy products.
It is important to increase your antioxidants found naturally in fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and cranberries, in vegetables such as broccoli and artichoke, and even in dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more), and red wine!
2. Cut out junk food and refined carbohydrate
It is important to reiterate that junk food should be a no no when you’re trying to improve sperm health. Eat foods which focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grain, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds. Cut out refined carbohydrates such as flour, sugar, chocolate, biscuits, sweets, cakes etc. It is also time to avoid saturated fats and hydrogenated fats e.g. margarine.
3. Eat nuts and seeds
I have mentioned in number one the importance of some nuts and seeds, but this is worth repeating. Keep to natural nuts and seeds (not roasted and salted nuts). The nuts and seeds that work wonders for sperm health include Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds and chestnuts.
4. Drink water
This is probably the best time to stick with that resolve to drink at least two litres of water daily. If you’re finding yourself in the embarrassing position of rushing out of meetings to go to the toilet, please persevere as this will get better in a week or so from starting, once your body gets used to being hydrated and has excreted the stagnant water supply it has been holding on to for its essential functioning.
5. Drink green tea
This wonderful drink, full of antioxidants is good for sperm health.
6. Limit your caffeine intake
A recent study of coffee drinking men in Brazil shows that moderate caffeine does not adversely affect sperm health. However, there are plenty of nutritionists who advocate cutting caffeine whilst trying to conceive. Excessive caffeine, even where the woman does not drink coffee, can cause miscarriages, low birth weight etc. In moderation, coffee does not need to go entirely from your diet. Perhaps you can switch to caffeine free coffee to week days, and reward yourself with an indulgent freshly brewed coffee at the weekends!
7. Reduce your alcohol consumption
8. Quit smoking
Smoking is bad bad bad when you’re trying to conceive. Its effect not only affects getting pregnant, but also the health of the foetus, and your baby once it has been burn. There are also studies which show that the smoking habits of a male partner can increase the chances of miscarriage. If you think about it, it takes sperm and an egg, to make a baby, so it is only logical that the health of the sperm could affect the health of the embryo.
9. Lose weight
It is important to be a healthy weight range when trying to conceive. If you are underweight or overweight, you should consult your GP or a dietician about ways of reaching a more ideal weight.
10. Sleep more!
Sleep is essential for good sperm health and it helps replenish testosterone.
11. Avoid over-heating up those delicate areas
You should ensure that you do not wear tight pants. Consider changing to the boxer shorts. Make sure that your trousers are not too tight.
As heat adversely affects sperm quality, ensure that you are not heating up your delicate areas by the heat of your mobile phone in your front trouser pockets where it could heat up your testicles. Try putting your mobile in your suit jacket, or safely in a drawer instead of in your trousers.
If you regularly use a lap top, consider using a lap top heat shield or placing the computer on a table instead of on your lap.
Avoid electric blankets, saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis and hot baths when trying to conceive. Instead of a hot bath, opt for a quick shower. Some men swear to improved sperm quality by getting into the habit of splashing their testicles with cool water after taking a hot shower.
12. Use it or lose it!
Ejaculate every 2 or 3 days, if not, then old sperm could deteriorate and affect the quality of newer sperm.
13. Reduce exposure to chemicals e.g. deodorant, pesticides
Ensure that you are not exposed to harmful chemicals such as weed killers, pesticides and other readily available household chemicals. Consider reducing your exposure to chemicals to as low as possible. Instead of your “normal” deodorant with its cocktail of chemicals, try a natural crystal rock product, which is completely chemical free and does a great job of keeping odour causing bacteria at bay. These are usually available in normal drugs stores such as Boots.
14. Take a good multi-vitamin
If you are eating a balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, you probably won’t need a multi-vitamin. However, a good multi-vitamin will ensure that you are not missing out on any of the essentials.
15. Other supplements
Infertility unfortunately is big business and there are many supplements out there that claim to work magic on sperm health. You should however ensure that you do not take every supplement going and are directed by your partner’s gynaecologist, an urologist, or a qualified nutritionist or dietician. You may also find that your urologist will frown at combining herbal and traditional medicines.
In addition to a general multi-vitamin, some of the supplements which your doctor may recommend, include 500mg of L-Carnitine for sperm motility and count, 500mg of L-Arginine to help improve motility, 15mg of zinc for sperm production, this is often taken with 1mg of copper, 200mcg of selenium to improve sperm quality and testosterone, 30mg of Coenzyme which increases sperm count and motility, 400iu of vitamin E which helps with sperm motility and ability to penetrate egg, 1000mg of Vitamin C which stops sperm from clumping, 100mg each of Vitamin B complex (especially Vitamin B12) which helps sperm count and motility; folic acid and Omega 3, 6 and 9.
Some men also swear by the efficacy of taking 500mg of the Peruvian herb Maca. In clinical trials, subjects taking a derivative of the Peruvian Andes herb maca called gelatinized maca reported increase sexual desire of 180% and sperm count increase of 200%. Please consult a qualified nutritionist before taking any herbal remedies. Please also ensure that your doctor is happy with your taking any herbal products.
Exercise regularly, especially, weights helps to boost sperm health by increasing testosterone. However, it is important to avoid excessive exercise and cycling.
17. Try acupuncture
Some men credit acupuncture treatment with improved sperm quality. Acupuncture removes blockages in flow of energy, and is a relaxing calming experience. Make sure you choose a qualified acupuncturist by finding someone who is a member of The British Acupuncture Council, the UK’s main regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture by over 2800 professionally qualified acupuncturists.
18. Make your kitchen microwave free
If you are eating natural, wholesome, healthy diet, you will have little use for a microwave anyway. Instead of defrosting food in the microwave, be more organised and leave it to defrost naturally in a fridge.
19. Get some sun daily!
Spending some time in the sun helps to boost testosterone and reduces level of melatonin which suppresses fertility.
20. Avoid stress, have fun, and have sex!
Often people find that they fall pregnant once they stop obsessing about their failure to get pregnant, relax and enjoy other great things in their lives. Whilst infertility is a difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible situation to face, stress does not help with solutions. Enrich your life with happy fun relaxing activities, and more importantly, do not lose the joys of sex by just focussing on making babies.