Male infertility : Top tips to improve sperm
We’re in the middle of June now, and June is Men’s Health Month, with International Men’s Health Week thrown in there the week leading up to Father’s Day (for 2019, June 10-16) for extra emphasis. What better time than now to give my top tips to improve sperm.
With so much emphasis on female fertility – women get the most complicated and involved tests, take the lion’s share of the stimulation drugs and supplements and are the ones trudging to the doctor every other day for monitoring during treatment – it can be easy to overlook the guys.
But it takes two tango. This is a shared journey, and something that couples endure together. According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association in the United States, one-third of infertility cases are attributed to the male partner, and another one-third are a combination of issues with both partners. So infertility is just as much of a concern for men as it is for women.
And even if you don’t have a partner and are going it alone, using sperm from a donor, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it’s good quality sperm.
Thankfully, improving sperm is a totally obtainable goal. Men are producing new sperm ALL THE TIME, unlike women who are born with all the eggs she’ll ever have. Men produce sperm well into their 70s, so there are always opportunities to incorporate new habits and practices to improve their sperm.
Sperm Tests and Indicators
The main test that a man will have to evaluate his sperm is called a semen analysis. He will see either a urologist or a reproductive endocrinologist for this test. He will give a sperm sample that will be analyzed to check for the following indicators.
- Sperm Count: This is defined the number of active sperm produced my a man’s body – how many sperm there are in his ejaculate. The lower the number, the more a man’s fertility may be compromised.
- Sperm Morphology: This looks at the size and shape of the sperm. Morphology is expressed as the percentage of sperm from a sample that appear normal under a microscope. Essentially, what the sperm look like.
- Sperm Motility: This is defined as the sperm’s ability to move, basically are the sperm strong swimmers. Having low motility, or a high amount of sperm that aren’t able to swim properly, can lead to male infertility, because the sperm will have trouble reaching the egg for fertilization.
These three key indicators give an overall picture of sperm quantity and quality. Sometimes, however, the doctor may need more information, and may order additional testing such as hormone testing, ultrasound or urinalysis, depending on the initial semen analysis results.
If your man’s results aren’t what you hoped for, don’t despair. Men are producing new sperm all the time, and it takes about 90 days for new sperm to be fully mature. What he eats, his lifestyle and physical environment all influence his sperm health. Those are great areas to focus on to improve sperm.
5 Tips to Improve Sperm
We intuitively know that by eating a healthy diet, we’ll be healthier. A healthy diet is one of the biggest tools men have to improve sperm.
A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health looked at lifestyle factors among 150 male infertility patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and found that men who ate more processed foods like processed meats has poorer quality sperm than the men who didn’t. Men who ate a diet rich in fatty fish, fruits and vegetables had higher sperm counts and overall better sperm quality.
So make sure your man is eating a high-protein, low-fat diet rich in whole foods. These foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and little to no refined sugars and processed foods. His sperm will thank you both!
The 2013 Harvard study also found that exercise is a great way to improve sperm. Men who get more exercise have higher sperm counts and better overall sperm quality. Weight lifting has been found to be particularly beneficial for increasing testosterone levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
Make sure your partner is getting in his time at the gym, running on the treadmill or pumping some iron!
Diet and exercise are huge components of lifestyle, but there are other lifestyle factors that he can incorporate to improve his sperm.
- Minimize alcohol consumption. It affects male hormonal balance which affects sperm production.
- Reduce caffeine. Excessive amounts of caffeine has been shown in some studies to decrease sperm morphology.
- Reduce stress. Prolonged stress raises cortisol in the body, which can affect male testosterone levels.
- Quit smoking. Smoking affects sperm counts, morphology and motility all in a bad way. It also increases risk of cancer and other diseases and is bad for overall health.
Avoid Excessive Heat
Sperm can’t take the heat! They require a temperature that’s a little cooler (by about 4 degrees) than a man’s body temperature to thrive. A very hot environment negatively affects sperm production, counts and overall quality.
It’s best for men to avoid extreme heat like saunas and hot tubs to improve their sperm and keep the swimmers healthy. The heat caused by resting a laptop on his legs or keeping a cell phone in his pocket is also detrimental. Even heat caused by clothes that are too tight (think the Seinfeld episode about boxers vs. briefs!) can have an effect.
Think cool to improve sperm.
While I’m a proponent of natural remedies like diet and lifestyle changes, there are supplements available to improve sperm. A good multivitamin gives the basics – vitamins B12 and E which help improve sperm counts, vitamin A for testosterone. Other supplements like zinc, selenium also help improve sperm function. Make sure you check with your partner’s doctor before adding supplementation to his daily routine.
These tips are all ways to improve sperm, and if your partner incorporates these, he should see some results. Keep in mind it takes up to 90 days for new sperm to mature, so it won’t happen overnight. Consistent action every day will give him the best results for improved fertility.