What Every Man Should Know About Fertility
When we're kids, teens, and young adults, we think of Father’s Day as an occasion to celebrate our dads and grandfathers. As we get older and start thinking about having a family of our own, we think about the holiday also as a celebration of ourselves.
For couples trying to conceive, Father's Day can bring mixed emotions. There may be disappointment that you aren't able to celebrate this Father’s Day, as well as excitement and anticipation about whether you will be able to celebrate fatherhood with a bundle in your arms next year.
Forty percent of infertility diagnoses are due to male infertility. The advice for women trying to conceive is well known and easy to find. What about ways for men to optimize their fertility?
Here are eight tips and tricks to increase your chances of being a dad next Father’s Day:
1. Drop those extra pounds.
Sperm production is at its best when you are a normal, healthy weight. Carrying extra weight increases fat cells which produce estrogen, causing a hormonal imbalance that can disrupt normal sperm production. Don’t reach for the quick fix either; weight loss supplements often affect sperm production.
2. Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and excessive caffeine.
Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine have been associated with decreased sperm function as toxins damage the sperm. For men trying to conceive, I recommend eliminating tobacco, consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks per day (and no more than six per week), and drinking less than 300 mg of caffeine per day. A typical cup of coffee has approximately 100mg of coffee, and a soda typically has about 50 mg.
3. Stay away from heat.
Avoid baths or saunas with very hot temperatures. Immersion in hot water increases the temperature in the scrotum, leading to damaged sperm production. It’s also best to avoid laptop computers and cell phones in the front pocket. Overexposure to hot temperatures can take approximately three months to recover healthy sperm production.
4. Skip the lubricants.
Even though they can make intercourse more enjoyable, most lubricants – including saliva, KY jelly, and olive oil – are toxic to sperm. If you do need to use something, the less toxic lubricants are “pre-seed,” mineral oil, and canola oil, but they should be used sparingly.
5. Avoid testosterone or testosterone-like products.
Sometimes men I talk to don’t even realize they're taking testosterone substances. These can be either doctor prescribed, recreational for body building, or even over-the-counter supplements. There are many supplements sold at nutrition stores that contain testosterone or testosterone-like products. These products send messages to the testicles that there is enough testosterone around so the brain can stop sending the signals to make sperm.
If you're taking one of these over-the-counter supplements, stop immediately. The damage done is often reversible, but can take three months or longer. If you're taking doctor-prescribed testosterone, check with your doctor before discontinuing.
6. Avoid exposure to toxins.
I have a lot of patients who worked at the mill or railroad who were exposed to toxins and had abnormal sperm as a result. Sometimes this exposure is unavoidable, depending on your work environment, but try to avoid toxins and chemicals where possible. Use BPA-free plastics for food and water bottles, avoid paint fumes, and stay away from chemicals. Sperm are sensitive little guys!
7. Choose exercise that is sperm-friendly.
Rest assured, most exercise is sperm-friendly. Some activities such as hot yoga or bicycle riding can increase temperature in the scrotum, which can interfere with normal sperm production.
8. Have frequent intercourse, especially around the time of ovulation.
This can be challenging with the demands of everyday life. I recommend intercourse every one or two days around time of ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs 11-21 days after the first day of the menstrual period, but can vary. To help focus efforts, women can buy ovulation kits at the pharmacy. These kits measure urine levels of the hormone LH, or luteinizing hormone. This hormone's levels rise about 12-36 hours before ovulation. I recommend having intercourse the day the kit turns positive, as well as the following day.
When should you see a specialist?
After a year, 85 percent of young couples will have conceived. If the female partner is under 35, then you should see a fertility specialist after you have tried to conceive for one year. But if the female partner is 35 or older, seek a consultation if it's been longer than six months.
There can be reasons to seek consultation sooner, such as abnormal menstrual cycles or difficulty with erections or ejaculations. If you experience testicular pain, abnormal discharge from the penis, swelling in the scrotum, or small testicles, it is best to seek medical expertise immediately.
These measures should help supercharge sperm and help you in the goal of celebrating being a father next Father’s Day. Good Luck and enjoy trying!