I am constantly baffled when I talk to people about preconception care and fertility support and it is only the female who believes she needs to look after herself.
Yes, as a female we share half the DNA and are the carrier of the baby so being healthy is really important ... but that other half of the DNA comes from the sperm, so it is EQUALLY as important that men look after their health as well.
Did you that 1 in 3 fertility problems can be linked EXCLUSIVELY to the male?
The health of the sperm is critical to not only to falling pregnant, but also to a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby. So guys, you need to do more than turn up (so to speak) in the bedroom to make a healthy baby!
The production of sperm is dependent on a delicate interplay between various aspects of the endocrine, reproductive and nervous systems. It requires adequate nutritional levels and an absence of chemicals. Sperm are susceptible to oxidative damage because they contain an extremely high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids and they exhibit no capacity for membrane repair (so once damaged there is no going back for these guys). This damage can reduce sperm motility, interfere with the sperm-oocyte binding and fusion, and also contribute to DNA damage and reduced sperm count. If fertilisation does occur the compromised DNA may result in miscarriage or birth defects.
The causes of male infertility are numerous and include sperm production problems, blockage of sperm transport, sexual problems, hormonal problems and sperm antibodies. Influences of sperm health include lifestyle factors, diet, environmental, infections, autoimmune conditions, trauma and chronic disease.
When it comes to preconception care (which needs to start about 3 months before trying to conceive as it takes that long for sperm to develop and mature) we therefore need to address a range of areas.
Working on diet and lifestyle are huge - not only to overall health and wellbeing but also directly related to sperm health. A few tips include:
Stop smoking, reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption
Avoid high temperatures generally, including hot saunas and baths
Avoid pressure, such as prolonged sitting, tight underwear, prolonged cycling or physical trauma
Enjoy a diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables, essential fatty acids and lean protein sources provide essential phytonutrients, antioxidants and magnesium. Eat organic and pesticide free where possible
Eliminate foods that increase oestrogen levels in the body and the liver's ability to metabolise it. These include non-organic poultry, dairy, red meat, sugar, white flour and refined foods, and methylxanthines (coffee, tea, chocolate, colas)
Minimise refined foods, as they deplete the body of magnesium and other essential nutrients which are needed for normal hormone production
Stress management techniques meditation, yoga and exercise
While diet and lifestyle are absolute key in preconception care for men there are some key nutrients as well as herbal medicine that I also like to use to support sperm health. Four key ones for me are a high quality essential fatty acid (not from the dodgy specials bin), zinc, selenium and CoQ10. I also use nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carnitine and n-acetyl cysteine.
The power of herbs during this time as well can not be underestimated - not only supporting sperm health but nourishing the nervous and adrenal system is key. I love to use Tribulus terrestris, Withania somnifera, Turnera diffusa, Gingko biloba and Ptychopetalum olacoides.
It really is essential for both partners to commit to their health in their journey towards starting or adding to a family. Have a baby is often more than just having sex (whilst yes, this does help). Analysis of sperm parameters is an essential step when aiming to address infertility, reduce miscarriage risk and support successful pregnancy and IVF outcomes.
For more information on male health, preconception care, fertility and pregnancy support for both males and females please feel free to contact me.