Sperm is probably not the date night topic you had in mind. It’s certainly not the sexiest conversation to have but, when you’re trying to conceive, it’s a necessary one. Though too many people assume that difficulty getting pregnant falls on the woman, studies have shown that in 30-40% of infertile couples, the problem lies solely with the male. For this reason, it’s important to stay up to date on all things sperm, so you and your partner can make healthy, fertility-minded choices.
New sperm are made roughly every 3 months
Unlike female eggs, which are released once a month during ovulation, sperm is constantly being produced. This is good news for couples trying to conceive — every 70 days your partner has a new set of matured sperm, giving him the chance to improve his sperm health and count every few months. There’s no time like the present to make lifestyle changes to support your partner’s fertility. Which brings us to...
Lifestyle choices greatly affect male fertility
Men who smoke, drink alcohol, and consume caffeine are putting their sperm at risk. Studies have found that when it comes to nicotine, it doesn’t matter how much you use — any amount can cause poor sperm morphology and motility.
Rest easy, men. You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely (though an act of solidarity with your partner would surely not go unnoticed). A drink or two every once in awhile won’t have a large impact on your fertility but regular drinking can lower the motility and concentration of your sperm.
One of the biggest lifestyle changes necessary to promote fertility is weight loss. Men with a BMI higher than 25 are found to have significantly less healthy sperm than men who are not obese. When you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, consider these factors and be sure to make smart choices about drinking, smoking, and exercise.
Nutrition is not just for the mom-to-be
If you’re the only one taking folic acid supplements and prenatal vitamins, it’s time to reevaluate. Men need a variety of nutrients to maintain optimal sperm health. Here’s a breakdown of some key nutrients, along with recommended food sources, courtesy of natural-fertility-info.com.
- Zinc — Zinc is a trace mineral that boosts sperm levels and improves the form, function, and quality.
Foods with zinc: Tofu, tempeh, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, sesame seeds, yogurt, peas.
- Folic acid — Men with low levels of folate can have an increased risk of their sperm having too few or too many chromosomes, which can lead to birth defects or an increased chance of miscarriage.
Foods with folic acid: lentils, chickpeas, spinach, and asparagus.
- L-carnitine — This is a nutrient necessary for the proper function of sperm cells — especially sperm count and motility. Taking L-carnitine supplements can help boost sperm count and increase your chances of conception.Foods with L-carnitine: organic red meat and dairy products
Of course, there are plenty of other nutrients that men can benefit from when trying to improve sperm count and quality. Most importantly, eat a balanced diet of protein, complex carbs, and plenty of vegetables. This goes for mom and dad.
Keeping sperm cool is cool
You may have heard rumors that men should avoid wearing tight underwear, spending too much time in hot tubs, and keeping their laptops on their lap. The rumors are true. Sperm needs a precise temperature — 4 degrees cooler than his body temperature. When his testicles get too cool, his testicles move up and closer to his body. When they are too hot, they move away from his body in an attempt to cool down.
When sperm are exposed to too high of temperatures, they begin to die. That’s why it’s important for your man to be mindful about his heat exposure. There are also medical reasons why your testicles could overheat, like varicocele. When in doubt, talk to your doctor about testing and treatments.
Side note: heat isn’t the only thing to worry about. Check out our post on male endocrine disruptors.
Semen analysis is a thing and you should consider it
Trying to conceive can be a stressful time. Save yourself and your partner months of frustration by having him get a semen analysis. Knowing if there are any problems with the health of his sperm can save time, money, and a lot of stress in the long run. A semen analysis is usually recommended if you’ve been trying to conceive for a year without success. It’s a common procedure that can usually be done with his primary doctor. His semen will be tested for things like shape, movement, pH level, volume, and count. If one or more of these variables is abnormal, your doctor can talk to you about treatment options.
Bonus — Fun Sperm Facts
According to dontcookyourballs.com, a light-hearted guide to men’s sexual and reproductive health, here are some good-to-know statistics about sperm:
- Sperm take 72 days to grow
- They live 2 to 4 weeks in the testicle, 5 to 7 days in a woman, and 1 to 3 days in a cup
- The average man makes 1500 sperm per second
- On average, men make 525 billion sperm in their lifetime
Sperm — it’s not the most exciting topic and probably one you want to avoid at the dinner table. But there is an abundance of useful information that can help you and your man take control of his fertility. When it comes to getting pregnant, it’s important that both of you monitor your fertility and make any changes necessary.