When it comes to fertility concerns, often the burden is left to the female partner to determine what is wrong and why a couple isn’t getting pregnant.
The fact is though that between 30-50% of infertile couples are due to male factor concerns. For this reason, it is essential to ensure that the male partner has their sperm tested to look at a variety of different parameters including total volume of semen, total count, morphology (how do the sperm look) and motility (how fast can they swim) and DNA fragmentation.
Concerns with any of these can lead to various diagnosis including:
- Idiopathic oligospermia (low sperm count)
- Isolated asthenozoospermia (low sperm motility)
- Complete asthenozoospermia (absence of sperm motility)
- Idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (low count and low motility)
On the positive side, new sperm are constantly being developed so there is lots of opportunity to improve their health.
It takes approximately three months from when a sperm first starts to develop to when it is ejaculated from the body. There are a variety of environmental and lifestyle factors that can contribute to male infertility including concerns with elevation in oxidative stress levels.
There is more and more research showing that nutritional supplementation, as well as lifestyle and dietary changes, can have a major impact in improving sperm quality and positive pregnancy outcomes.
What are the top 5 things you can start doing right now to improve your sperm health
Stop smoking. We know smoking directly damages sperm DNA. This means it will be less likely that the sperm will be successful at creating a healthy embryo. This includes both cigarettes, cigars and any recreational drugs. There are lots of programs designed to provide assistance and support when you are ready to quit so make sure you use them if needed. This will not only improve the DNA of your sperm but the rest of your health as well.
Reduce stress levels. Often when speaking about fertility the male partner is left feeling they are just along for the ride. When test results come back that show there is a concern with the sperm this can leave the male partner feeling very stressed. When we experience a chronic stress, this can lead to changes in hormone regulations and can have a direct negative impact on sperm development. Finding ways to help alleviate stress to combat the negative impacts on the body are essential to aid in improving sperm health. Starting with a simple daily practice of doing diaphragm or yoga breathing for 5-10 minutes can go a long way to helping regulate your stress hormones. It can also be extremely helpful to begin a regular yoga practice or seek the guidance of a fertility counsellor.
Reduce or ideally eliminate your alcohol intake. Alcohol isn’t just an issue once you get pregnant it can damage sperm anywhere in the development process. Alcohol is a toxin in the body that can result in more oxidative damage. If you are using alcohol as your stress reliever, try to look for alternative options to help ease your stress.
Clean up your diet. The more you focus on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, the better your overall health will be. This will also add more antioxidants into your body to help quench ROS and protect your sperm.
Consider adding well researched nutrients that can improve your sperm. Some of these nutrients include vitamin D, N-Acetyl-l-carnitine, zinc, vitamins E and C and CoQ10.
Optimizing the health of your sperm before trying to conceive will not only improve your chances of achieving a pregnancy but also optimizing the health of your future children.
By: Dr. Jodie Peacock ND
Dr. Peacock ND is a board certified naturopathic doctor in Canada who focuses on fertility and optimizing hormonal health. For more information click here or email Dr Jodie directly