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Lifestyle changes that could boost male fertility

06 October 2017

A recent study assessing sperm counts of men in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand highlighted a dramatic decrease in the years between 1973 and 2011. 

The findings of the Human Reproduction Update caused Lead Researcher Dr Hagai Levine to declare himself 'very worried' about the implications although other experts felt the study may have been ‘flawed’ by the use of out-of-date information.

However, male fertility should not be taken for granted and there are things you can do to maintain or even improve your sperm count and sperm motility.

Three Consultant Urologists from Spire Parkway Hospital who hold fertility clinics discuss some lifestyle habits that may be a reason for infertility, and changes that you might want to take into consideration.

Mr Dev Sarmah:

  • Smoking can affect your general health and fitness and so have a detrimental effect on the quality of the sperm produced. There is also the problem that smoking can lower the levels of the antioxidants in the body that protect the sperm from attack from molecules known as ‘free radicals’. Certain fertility tests have shown that couples undergoing fertility treatment get poorer results if the male partner smokes.
  • Being overweight or obese can cause hormonal changes that reduce fertility that lower the quality of sperm and make men less interested in sex. Men who are very overweight are also more likely to have problems getting an erection. It is also true that excessive fat increases body temperature around the testes which can also affect sperm quality and thus fertility.
  • Severe or prolonged emotional stress – which can actually include stress about fertility – can interfere with hormones needed to produce sperm. Another aspect is that people suffering from stress can be less interested in sex and so reduce their chances of conceiving simply by ‘not doing what makes babies in the first place!’ 

Mr Ramasamy Jaganathan:

  • Lack of sleep can have an effect on general health which, in turn, can affect fertility levels. If you are constantly tired then your sperm count will go down. You also need to look at the reason why you aren’t sleeping well – could it be stress or an unhealthy lifestyle – both factors that can affect sperm quality. Getting a good night’s sleep will help increase sperm motility.
  • Exercise in moderation. In a world where everyone is encouraged to keep fit it may seem strange to include ‘over-exercising’ as a reason why sperm quality may be poor and fertility affected. However, as with everything in life, things work best when done in moderation.

    It is possible that excessive exercise could lower the amount of testosterone in your body but I would not want to discourage anyone from taking regular exercise and getting plenty of it. A change in diet from proteins and fatty foods to more fruit and vegetables and lots of liquids can also help improve fertility.

Mr Alan Doherty:

  • Take time to relax. Stress hormones can interfere with the hormones controlling sperm production. Research has shown that men under stress at work or home are more likely to have poor sperm quality.

    It is sometimes difficult to achieve the right work/life balance but some simple things – such as leaving your work phone in your briefcase when you arrive home – could possibly enable you to ‘switch off’ more and concentrate on your partner.

    There is also the stress that comes with trying to start a family. If it you set yourself a ‘timescale’ you just pile on the pressure. Much better just do what comes naturally and see how things go. If fertility tests have shown you are both ‘fertile’ then the chances are you will conceive… Sometimes it just takes a little longer.

  • Improve your diet. A balanced diet containing lots of anti-oxidant-filled fresh fruit and veg is not going to do you harm whatever you are trying to achieve and can certainly improve sperm strength and production. An important nutrient for a fertility diet in the production of sperm is zinc which can be found in oily fish, nuts, whole grains and eggs.

  • Excessive alcohol lowers testosterone levels and so affects both the quality and quantity of sperm produced. There is also the problem that drinking too much can reduce male libido as well as causing impotence. 

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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