Does that first Friday night beer bring sperm health to your mind? I bet it doesn’t. Although now it might. You’re welcome.
October 15 – 21 is Fertility Week 2018 and the message is that a healthy lifestyle is not just important for women trying to conceive. The way men live affects the quality of their sperm in a bunch of ways. And that affects your chances both of being able to conceive and having a healthy child – at birth and throughout their life.
So what lifestyle factors are important to your fertility? It’s the usual suspects – you probably know what they are – but Andrology Australia has spelt them out for you. Here are their five top tips for sperm health:
- Aim for a healthy weight - eat well and be active.
- Quit the smokes - ask your GP for help.
- Cut back on the beers - drink in moderation.
- Avoid nasty chemicals - limit exposure.
- Don't leave it too late - age affects sperm too.
Healthy weight, healthy sperm
There’s no getting around it – being overweight is going to have a big impact on your fertility. It lowers your sperm count, which means there are fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of your semen (20 million per millilitre is a much healthier count). Being overweight also reduces your sperm’s swimming skills. Both of these things decrease the chances of one of them fertilising your partner’s egg.
There’s more. Being overweight means that you produce greater numbers of abnormally shaped sperm. Aside from sperm quality control, being overweight reduces your production of testosterone, which can make it harder for you to get an erection. And, even if you do, the functioning of the genes that you pass on to your baby can be changed by your being overweight, which can affect the health of your baby at birth, and throughout their life.
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet and getting regular physical activity is the key - not only to improved chances of conception, but to your health and that of your baby.
Smoke less, produce more sperm
If you smoke you’ll have a lower sperm count, with poorer swimming skills, and you’ll produce less semen – even if you smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day. If you smoke more than 20 per day at the time of conception, you increase your child’s risk of developing childhood leukaemia.
Quitting is the best way forward. It takes about three months for new sperm to develop, so if you want to increase your fertility chances and the health of your child, it’s best to stop smoking three months before you start trying to conceive. Talk to your GP for support and advice about quitting, or you can call Quitline on 13 7848.
Cut back on the beers
The occasional drink from time to time is not likely to affect your fertility, but heavy drinking is another story. It will lower your sperm quality and your testosterone production, which can lead to erection difficulties. It can also lead to liver damage, which can affect both your general and reproductive health.
Reducing or cutting out your alcohol consumption three months before trying to conceive is recommended. Take a look at our ten tips for cutting down on alcohol. If you are having difficulty cutting down or stopping drinking, call DirectLine on 1800 888 236. They offer a free, 24-hour information and advice line that is anonymous and confidential.
Avoid nasty chemicals
Exposure to chemicals in the workplace, the environment or around the home can affect your fertility. If you are exposed to chemicals at work be sure to follow the OH&S guidelines, and wear protective clothing and equipment.
If you are trying for a baby it’s extra important to avoid exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and household chemicals – including those contained in plastics. Read more in our blog ‘The chemicals in your home and pregnancy’, and visit Yourfertility.org for information about how you can reduce your exposure to environmental chemicals when trying to conceive.
Get to it
While men make sperm throughout their lives, the quality of the sperm produced decreases with age. Partners of men over the age of 45 have a harder time getting pregnant, and a higher rate of miscarriage. There is also a slightly higher chance of children of older fathers having autism spectrum disorder, mental health issues and genetic disorders. So if you want to be a father, sooner is better than later.
Five is the new seven
Okay, we said there were five top tips because it’s a decimally neat sort of number, but in fact there are seven ways to improve the health of your sperm. Bonus! Here are the other two:
- Get checked for STIs – some sexually transmissible infections can cause infertility, so it’s worth getting checked. Most STIs are easy to treat, and the sooner you do, the less damage you may cause to your reproductive organs. You’re also less likely to pass the STI on to your partner. She’ll thank you for that.
- Talk to your doctor about any drugs or medications you are taking:
- Anabolic steroids reduce your sperm count and quality, sometimes irreversibly. They can also reduce your sex drive and your ability to get an erection, so they are best avoided all round. If you are already taking steroids and finding it hard to give up, talk to your GP for information and referral, or contact an alcohol or other drug service in your area.
- Some prescription medications and recreational drugs can reduce male fertility and sexual function. If you are worried that anything you are taking may be affecting your fertility – talk to your GP.
For more information about male and female fertility, and to find out how you can get involved in Fertility Week, visit Your Fertility.
Your Fertility is a government-funded national fertility health promotion program that improves awareness among people of reproductive age and health and education professionals about potentially modifiable factors that affect fertility and reproductive outcomes.