You may or may not have read about a rapid decline in male fertility in the headlines recently. The results of the biggest ever study in this area found that sperm counts have fallen by almost 60% in the last 40 years – a statistic which is quite frankly frightening. Especially if you were to think about where these numbers are heading if we don’t take the findings seriously and ensure men start making significant changes to their lifestyles in order to improve their reproductive health.
As we discussed in our last post, it’s now acknowledged that in at least half of cases, the problems faced by infertile couples originate with the man. However, this often goes undetected with men simply being asked to give a sperm sample which is then given only basic assessments to check for the quantity, motility and morphology of sperm rather than investigating why the sperm might be of poor quality. It is also becoming apparent that when male factors of poor sperm quality are identified, IVF and ICSI (where the sperm is directly injected into the egg) are the preferred routes being suggested by fertility doctors, rather than focusing on lifestyle factors that might be playing a part.
Some of the main factors that have a negative impact on sperm quality include:
- Obesity and poor diets including heavily processed foods and a lack of exercise
- Excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco and/or recreational drugs such a marijuana
- Overheating of the testicles (through the wearing of tight underwear or cycling shorts, hot tubs or overly hot baths and excessive laptop use)
- Stress and lack of sleep
- Varicose veins of the testicles (which can reduce blood flow and cause overheating)
- Radiation caused from keeping a mobile phone in trouser pockets
- Environmental pollution and exposure to toxins.
At the Natural Fertility Clinic, we want to support you both as a couple by offering a range of ways to help improve your fertility through holistic treatments and providing detailed advice on a healthy diet and lifestyle. Taking these often simple and non-invasive steps is vastly less stressful for couples as well as being much more cost effective. It takes around 3 months for changes in diet and lifestyle to start having a positive impact on both male and female reproductive health, and many of these changes you can make together as a couple.
Here are some of our top tips for improving sperm quality:
- Regular acupuncture improves sperm count, morphology and motility, whilst supporting good energy levels and strong libido. It can also reduce scrotal temperature.
- Improve nutrition – aim for a ‘sperm-boosting’ diet which is low in fat and salt, with a high intake of chicken, fish, fruit and veg, nuts and seeds. (See below for some recommended recipes you and your partner could try!)
- Manage your weight with care, aiming for a BMI between 20-25; both high and low BMI may cause poor sperm quality
- Exercise moderately – exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle and is also linked with reducing stress. However, excessive exercise can have a detrimental impact on fertility for both men and women (e.g. marathon training or cycling for more than 5 hours per week.)
- Keep testicles cool; no phones in pockets, no laptops on laps, and steering clear of overly hot baths, hot tubs and saunas. Also avoid tight underwear, including cycling shorts.
- If you are actively trying or thinking of trying to conceive in the near future, taking a good preconception supplement for at least 3 months will improve semen quality and general health. Antioxidants, Vit C & E plus Zinc and Selenium are especially effective in improving sperm quality. The theory is that low antioxidant levels mean sperm DNA may be damaged, affecting swimming capability and the ability of the sperm to break through and fertilise an egg.
- Stop smoking and all recreational drugs to improve sperm quality. Stopping smoking increases sperm counts by 50-800%. Cannabis use is associated with poor sperm morphology.
- Stop or reduce alcohol, especially before IVF as it can reduce success markedly. Even as little as 5 units/week has an adverse affect on sperm quality.
- ‘Detox’ your emotions and reduce stress, as well as making sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Reduce / eliminate exposure to potential environmental or occupational toxins such, metals, plastics and pesticides as well as radiation.
With World Fertility Day approaching on Friday 2nd November, for the rest of the month we are focusing on women’s fertility. In our next article we will be discussing why breaking down the barriers and talking about fertility is so important for our own mental well-being.