Lifestyle Changes A Man Should Make When Trying To Conceiveby Teresa Shaw | May 5, 2008 12:00 AM
Male fertility factors contribute to around 50% of all infertility cases, according to the American Pregnancy Association. In addition, male infertility alone is the cause for approximately one-third of all infertility cases. There are a few simple lifestyle and diet changes that can be made prior to conception in order to maximize a couple's chances of conception.
Talk to Your Doctor
First, schedule an appointment with your doctor. This can be a special preconception visit or an annual physical. Either way, talk to your doctor about trying to conceive and ask about risk factors you might face. For example, some of the medications you take on a regular basis (both over the counter and prescription) can cause a low sperm count. Find out if that is a risk factor for you, and discontinue use or switch to another formulation.
A 2002 study looked at the effect of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility (subfertility is defined as when a couple has tried unsuccessfully to conceive for a year or more). The clinical trial found a 74% increase in total normal sperm when subfertile men took a zinc sulfate and folic acid supplement each day. Sperm count also increased in fertile men.
A zinc deficiency can contribute to male infertility (find out from your doctor if you have a zinc deficiency). To increase the zinc in your diet, try adding these zinc-rich foods to your diet: meat, whole-grain cereal, seafood, and eggs. Selenium, which is found in Brazil nuts, meat, seafood, mushrooms and cereals, has also been found to aid in fertility.
A healthy diet also contributes to good male fertility. Fruits and vegetables (at least five servings per day), low-fat dairy foods and plenty of fluids all help to give men the vitamins they need, which can help in sperm production. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help to prevent damage to sperm that can them to become sluggish and lose the ability to fertilize an egg. Eating high-fat, high-calorie foods, however, such as processed and fast foods, is more likely to contribute to being overweight and possibly obese, which in recent studies has shown to be a factor in male fertility.
Consider Going Organic
A 1994 article in the Lancet reported high sperm density in members of an organic farmers' association, who grew and consumed their produce without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Their sperm count was more than double those of the men in a control group. Eating organic fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products may help to increase fertility—as well as boost overall health.
A healthy lifestyle also includes exercise. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that regular exercise (five times a week for at least 45 minutes), as well as a healthy diet, boost fertility by keeping body weight at a normal level and relieving stress and anxiety. However, the jury is still out when it comes to bicycling. The American Pregnancy Association says that cycling can cause excessive friction and jostling, which increases the temperature of the testicles. The temperature rise (as well as the possibility of injury) may exacerbate a low sperm count.
In addition, there is also evidence that extreme physical activity, such as running over 60 miles per week, may adversely affect sperm quality and count. Talk to your doctor about your exercise regimen and whether it needs to be modified.
Call it Quits
Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and illicit drugs should all be avoided when trying to conceive. Heavy or binge drinking (four or more servings of alcohol at one time) can seriously affect the ability to produce quality sperm. Compared to a nonsmoker, a man who smokes has a lower sperm count and a higher number of misshapen sperm, both of which will hinder conception. Recreational or illicit drug use should also be discontinued; marijuana and other drugs can affect sperm quality and sperm count as well. When trying to conceive, a healthy lifestyle is crucial—which means cutting out alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Consider Your Environment
Your work environment can detrimentally affect fertility. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, ongoing exposure to pesticides, chemical fertilizers, lead, nickel, mercury, chromium, ethylene glycol ethers, petrochemicals, benzene, perchloroethylene, and radiation, among others, can lower sperm quality and quantity, and can possibly lead to infertility or miscarriage.
Men should also limit their chemical exposure at home. Avoid plastic food containers (especially in the microwave), using unbleached coffee filters, paper, napkins, toilet tissue, etc.
And follow the age-old advice of avoiding saunas or other hot environments, including long, hot showers (more than 30 minutes), heating pads, and electric blankets—the heat can cause your testicles to become too hot, which decreases sperm quantity.
Most experts agree that the three months prior to conception are the most important in terms of what the male will pass on to a new baby. Because sperm take about 75 days to form and another 12-21 days to mature, your current lifestyle and health will affect the sperm you produce three months from now. Therefore, it's essential to begin taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle well before you begin trying to conceive.Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog.
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