Most “Dads to Be” don’t even think about their own fertility, until they decide to start trying for a family and have trouble conceiving. Whether you are personally experiencing infertility, or supporting your partner who may have fertility issues, you need to start preparing to optimize your chances of becoming a “Dad to be”. Either if you are trying to conceive naturally or through fertility treatment, improving your health and wellbeing can enhance your fertility and the future health of your child.
15% of couples globally experience infertility. Infertility is defined by unable to conceive a child naturally, even with frequent, unprotected sexual intercourse, for at least a year or more. Men are found to contribute to 50 % of infertility cases and are solely responsible for up to a third of fertility cases – so there is even more reason to really understand your role, and your partners on your fertility journey.
1 Fertility Health
You may not have any obvious signs or symptoms that you have fertility issues, until after having regular unprotected sexual intercourse, that your partner is not conceiving. This can be a stressful and frustrating time, so it’s best to see a doctor, to check out your fertility health sooner rather than later, especially if you have experienced any signs or symptoms of:
- Problems of any sexual function, erection or ejaculation problems
- Pain or discomfort, any lumps or swelling in the testicle area
- Previous surgery in the groin, penis, testicle or scrotum area
- Hormonal imbalance
- Chronic or previous health problems
- Inherited disorders
- Previous sexual transmitted diseases or infections
- On any medication, because of their side affects
Your age will play a factor in your fertility health, whilst most men are able to father children into their 50s and beyond, your fertility does gradually become more difficulty after the age of 40. There are many reasons for this as sperm quality tends to decrease with age, their motility and shape can also deteriorate. Also, the hormone testosterone level decreases with age and may affect your libido.
Healthy semen is important for healthy embryos, research has shown that damaged sperm from men might be the reason why women suffer from miscarriages. A study showed men whose partner miscarried more than once found links to sperm problems, which may be linked to their age, weight and diet. Sperm is important in forming the baby’s placenta, research at Imperial College London led my Dr Channa Jayasena said there is growing evidence that “sperm health dictates the health of a pregnancy”. Around the time of ovulation try and to have sex every other day, as if you ejaculate too regularly (daily), the testes cannot keep up with sperm production, so there will be fewer sperm in the semen.
2 Maintaining a healthy weight and BMI
There are some simple lifestyle changes that you can make, to boost your fertility and increase the chances of conception. Let’s start with your weight, being overweight can affect your sperm and increases the risk of developing blood-flow problems, which may affect your erections. In cases of obesity, being severely overweight can cause hormone changes that can reduce male fertility.
Your weight may also influence your child’s DNA, making them more likely to have a high BMI themselves. Calculate your BMI using the NHS website and try to get to fertility fit with a healthy BMI – for men is between 18.5-24.9. Work towards staying within this range, as being underweight can affect your health and fertility, just as much as being overweight can.
3 Nourishing diet
Research has shown that sperm quality is affected by your diet. The foods that have a positive effect women’s fertility, have a very similar effect on male fertility, so spend time together experimenting with new foods and recipes to boast your fertility. A diet in high processed food, and saturated fats are linked to low quality sperm, so switch to a diet rich is whole foods to improve your sperm quality. Snacking on nuts such as walnuts every day, could boost your sperm count and overall sperm health. Reduce your caffeine intake, as there is evidence to suggest miscarriage increase win both men and women. Limit your intake to 200mg a day or try Decaf tea or coffee and substitute the energy drinks for smoothies or fruit juice.
There are numerous numbers of lifestyle choices that can impact our health and wellbeing, if you are experiencing infertility, there is even more reason to do your research to minimise any toxic risks to impact your fertility. These include the obvious and not so obvious effects of digestible substances and environmental pollutants. Minimise toxic impact of:
- Alcohol – watch what you drink, drinking excessively can adversely affect sperm quantity and quality. Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and excessive drinking can lead to liver disease which may affect fertility.
- Tobacco – Not only does smoking affect sperm counts but your life expectancy. Avoid passive smoking as this is still highly toxic can also affect your fertility.
- Drugs – Recreational drugs can affect sperm quality and quantity. Anabolic steroids used to stimulate muscle strength and growth, may cause the testicles to shrink and decrease sperm production.
- Environmental Factors – exposure to heavy metals and industrial chemicals can cause issues to sperm health and count. Exposure to radiation thorough X-Rays may reduce sperm production short term, however high doses of radiation, can permanently damage sperm.
- Overheating the testicles – Elevated temperatures can impact sperm function and production. Do not sit for long periods of time especially with laptop computer, as this may lead to increase temperature on the groin area.
5 Exercise regularly
Regular exercise may help fertility by controlling body weight and relieving stress, so find time for you and your partner exercise together. Find something you both enjoy, as fertility issues can really put pressure on a relationship, so take some time out for some fun. However, choose a fitness regime that does not cause too much exertion on the body, as over exercising can cause hormonal changes, which can impact your partners fertility, particularly if your partner is undergoing IVF.
6 Time to relax and chill out
Stress can have a major impact on wide range of physical and emotional effects on the body including fertility. Emotional stress can interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm and prolonged emotional stress, can affect your sperm count. Research shows that if a male partner has severe depression the likelihood of pregnancy may be lower. Depression in men can cause sexual dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, or delayed or inhibited ejaculation and reduce libido.
A major survey on men’s experience of infertility from Fertility Network UK and Leeds Beckett University stated that “Infertility hits men hard – affecting their mental health, self-esteem, relationships, sex life, masculinity, career and finances; its treatment is one-sided and insensitive, and emotional support is scarce” What the male participants in the survey wanted to see was a “shift from infertility being a ‘women’s issue’ within society and to vastly improve support for men.”
The majority (93%) of participants stated that their well-being had been impacted by fertility issues. Men reported that fertility issues to be emasculating, isolating and distressing. Many felt the impact of their self-identity, and causing stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Prof Brendan Gough, co-researcher, said: ‘The men who participated in our survey were only too pleased to share their stories with us, having never really had the opportunity to share their experiences with others’.
So, if you or your partner are experience infertility, have the confidence to speak up for support, if it’s affecting your health and well-being. Share your feelings with your partner, family or friends. Or if you prefer to be more private and anonymous, try secret social media networking groups and forums with people in similar situations as you, to learn and share experiences and to get advice on other people’s fertility journeys. There is a wealth of professional support options available to men experiencing infertility, talk to your doctor or fertility clinic for advice and contacts.
Do your research and support each other’s fertility, as it takes two to make a baby, there are lots of positive things you and your partner can do to prepare to become parents. If you partner does get pregnant, ensure to support her pregnancy, by keeping fit and healthy together to prepare you to become an active “Dad to be”!
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