There's that old saying about how "it takes two" - if you're trying to make a baby, each of you, including him, needs to be in optimum health.
Study after study have shown that if a man has poor health, smokes, drinks too much or has a bad diet, it's very likely his sperm are also going to be unhealthy and not up for the task ahead.
What makes sperm healthy?
Sperm have a very demanding role to play in reproduction. The journey sperm undertake on their way to fertilise an egg has been likened to a human trying to swim a journey of several thousand kilometres. Then when they arrive at the egg, they need to be full healthy to help make a healthy baby.
There are three principles of a healthy sperm. They are:
- Quantity: Because it's survival of the fittest, you want many millions to be sent out in search of a receptive egg. Most will drop off or get lost along the way.
- Quality: Only 4% of will have a normal shape and structure - that is, an oval head and a long tail, which work together to propel it forward. Sperm with large, small, tapered or crooked heads or kinky, curled or double tails will struggle to fertilise an egg.
- Motility: To reach the egg, sperm have to move on their own, wriggling and swimming their way to the egg. In a healthy sperm sample, about 40% are moving.
Getting his swimmers ready
Sperm health is heavily influence by lifestyle and dietary habits. Here are a few ways to boost his sperm quality, and possible even quantity, today.
1. Stop smoking:
A new study has been released confirming that that smoking can harm sperm quality. German research showed that men who smoke heavily may experience fertility problems stemming from a drop in levels of a protein crucial to sperm development, as well as damage to sperm's DNA.
2. Minimise the booze:
Alcohol consumption has also been linked with lowering both the quantity and quality of sperm. Fertility specialists advise that when men are planning a baby, they should cut back on how much they drink and avoid all binge drinking.
3. Lose weight:
A 2008 UK study confirmed that obese men should consider losing weight if they want to have children after finding that men with a higher body mass index (BMI) had lower volumes of seminal fluid and a higher proportion of abnormal sperm. Other studies have suggested an association between male obesity and increased DNA damage in the sperm, which can also be associated with reduced fertility.
4. But don't over-exercise:
Exercise moderately, particularly while you're actively trying to conceive, is this message from fertility specialists. Over exercising can cause the internal temperature of a man's testicles to rise and sperm to overheat and die off. Bike riding has been found to be a less than ideal way of exercising for the man trying to conceive. Also, men who over exercise and become underweight can also experience lower sperm mortality and poor sperm morphology.
5. Eat these sperm-boosting foods:
Obviously a healthy, balanced diet is the way to go at all stages of life. But there are a few foods believed to be especially good at helping make healthy, moving, high quality sperm, such as foods rich in:
- Zinc - like oysters, whole grains and lean red meats
- Vitamin C - strawberries, broccoli and kiwi fruit
- Lycopene - tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit
- Vitamin A - dairy foods, chicken, fish oils, eggs and liver
6. Drink water:
Dehydration is a major effect on all the body's organs including the testicles. So men need to drink at least two litres of water a day to maintain sperm health.
7. Keep them cool:
Research has shown that warming the scrotum more than one degree Celsius is enough to damage sperm. So during the baby-making time men should avoid spas, hot baths, over-exercising, tight undies and using laptops on their laps.
8. Ejaculate daily:
Men trying to conceive with their partner should have sex every day to improve the quality of their sperm, according to new research, debunking that old myth of too much sex lessens the quality and quantity of semen. The study found on average sperm DNA damage fell from 34% to 26% if men ejaculated daily. Researchers advised couples to have sex daily for up to a week before ovulation.
This article was written by Fiona Baker for Birth, Australia's best conception and pregnancy resource.
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Last revised: Monday, 14 January 2013
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.