It’s not a secret that raising a child is a rewarding full-time job. However, getting pregnant can require plenty of effort on its own. Women in particular find that there’s a lot of prep work to consider before they’re expecting, since their health plays a major role in the development of a healthy child. While a lot of conception to do lists focus on what a woman needs to do to keep her body healthy before and during her pregnancy, there’s another important element that can sometimes get ignored: the health of the father.
That’s right: boys. Although we as a society often focus on the health of a mother or mother-to-be when talking about conception, dads-to-be need to consider their health before they try to have a family, too. In many cases, healthy sperm aren’t just a critical part of achieving optimal fertility – they can impact the health of a developing child, too. So if you want a baby, and you’re planning on starting a family with your partner in the coming months, there are a handful of things you’ll want to do to help contribute to a successful and healthy pregnancy:
- Talk to a doctor about your health and your medications. While there’s no need to talk to a doctor about infertility issues before you’ve even started to try to conceive, you should still meet with them to discuss your general health before you think about introducing a new family member to your life. This will give your doctor a chance to provide any initial feedback on things to be aware in the near future, and will also give them a chance to address any health issues that could affect children you may conceive. Meeting with a doctor will also allow you to review your current medication list, if there is one. This is important, since you may need to ditch any that have a tendency to affect sperm or fertility.
- Add folic acid to your diet. Folic acid doesn’t just help mothers set the way for a healthier pregnancy. Researchers have found a connection between lower levels of folic acid in men’s diets and higher rates of abnormal chromosomes in men’s sperm. Since abnormal chromosomes can lead to birth defects or even increase the chances of a miscarriage, it’s worth trying to prevent future problems by going on a multivitamin or eating more foods that are high in folate.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Sorry, guys: alcohol doesn’t just affect women who want to conceive! Studies have shown that consuming high amounts of alcohol can reduce your sperm count and even cause sperm abnormalities. The good news is that you don’t need to give up alcohol entirely – limiting yourself to one or two (normal sized!) drinks a day should be enough to keep your sperm healthy enough to conceive.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is a serious risk factor for both genders when you’re trying to conceive. According to the C.D.C., “a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birthweight than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.” Add in the fact that smoking damages sperm, and you have a dangerous habit that should be under control before you begin trying for a baby.
- Take a look at your work environment. Safe work environments aren’t just important for pregnant women – they can also affect a man’s fertility and even whether or not he conceives a healthy child. To avoid this potential risk, find out before conceiving if you’re regularly exposed to pesticides, chemical fertilizers, lead, nickel, mercury, chromium, ethylene glycol ethers, petrochemicals, benzene, or perchloroethylene at work. These can affect sperm health and even lead to miscarriages.
- Keep your boys cool. You’ve probably heard at some point that overheating your testicles is a bad idea if you want to start a family. We’re here to say that’s true – even the heat we’re exposed to in hot tubs, saunas, and long showers can impact sperm quantity. Heating pads, electric blankets, and overly tight clothing can also have a negative impact on the temperatures within your testicles. Because of this, it’s a good idea to minimize your exposure to heat sources if you want to conceive a baby.
- Ditch your bike. While cycling can be a great form of exercise, it can also cause a lot of friction and may even increase the temperature of your testicles enough to affect your sperm’s health. Because of this, you may want to consider an alternative method of exercise if you’re preparing to start a family.
Each of these points can help you improve your fertility and health as you prepare to conceive a healthy child. It’s particularly important to remember that these changes are best put into practice three months before trying to conceive. Since sperm production takes about three months, any changes you make today won’t show up in your semen for at least that long. So if you think you have work to do before you start a family, get started today – and don’t forget to visit a doctor and finalize a list of recommended actions for managing your preconception health!
All cited in the blog.