As couples prepare for pregnancy it is easy to focus only on the women’s health. However, there are several habits men need to be forming during these critical months of preparation, too. Issues of fertility do not rest solely on the female. According to the Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS), “Agents that may cause birth defects do not reach the developing fetus through the father as they do from the pregnant mother.” But we do know that male exposure to certain things can lead to some preliminary problems with fertility and also slightly elevate the risk of certain birth defects.
Male fertility factors contribute to approximately 50% of all infertility cases, and male infertility alone accounts for approximately one-third of all infertility cases. Should fertility issues arise, you will be one step ahead by beginning now with some simple steps to be in the best physical condition to conceive.
Make an appointment with your doctor
It’s time to find a care provider you feel comfortable with and get started with a pre-conception appointment.
Clean out the medicine cabinet
Eliminate as many medications from your routine as possible. Talk with your physician about your prescription medications. You may need to discontinue use or try something new. The following medications have been known to impact male fertility:
- Tagamet (cimetidine), sulfasalazine, or nitrofurantoin are used to treat ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, and urinary tract infections. These medications may impact sperm production and sperm count.
- Steroids, such as prednisone and cortisone, which are used to treat asthma, arthritis & skin conditions, impact male fertility.
- Chemotherapy and radiation could cause sterility or a significant change in sperm quality and quantity.
Take a good look at your work environment
Your work environment may be a contributing factor to your fertility. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health; on going exposure to certain things like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, lead, nickel, mercury, chromium, ethylene glycol ethers, petrochemicals, benzene, perchloroethylene, and radiation can lower sperm quality, quantity and possibly lead to infertility or miscarriage.
Eat and Sleep
Few and far between are the men who would be opposed to this. What you eat can make a difference. Find out what your proper weight range should be and make the necessary dietary & exercise changes to get there. Studies suggest that some men with low sperm count also have a zinc deficiency. The following foods are high in zinc & could increase your fertility; meat, wholegrain cereals, seafood, & eggs. Selenium, which is found in Brazil nuts, meat, seafood, mushrooms and cereals, has also been found to aid in fertility. Adding more vitamin E may also help the process along. Getting plenty of Z’sss is good for everything that ails you, even low sperm counts and sperm quality.
Avoid alcohol and other substances
Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and any illicit drugs. Too much alcohol may reduce zinc levels and drugs decrease sperm quality. There is some research being done that may link smoking and certain rare heart defects, but further studies must be done to make an accurate conclusion. Marijuana has been proven to affect sperm quality and sperm count, but there is no evidence that shows that marijuana causes birth defects.
Keep your testicles cool
Heat from hot tubs; saunas; hot, long showers ( more than 30 minutes); heating pads; electric blankets; tight clothing like briefs & spandex could cause your testicles to become too hot which decreases sperm quantity.
Stay away from cycling for a while
Cycling can cause a lot of friction and jostling, which increases the temperature of your testicles. The rise in temperature & possibility of injury may exacerbate low sperm count.
This may sound like a long list of “don’ts”. Here’s a list of “do’s” that might keep you going when the going gets tough.
- Do keep in mind that you are getting healthy along the way and preventing many other major medical complications.
- Do take a multivitamin, even a pre-natal vitamin!
- Do enjoy sex & romance like you used to. It’s easy to think of sex as a chore while trying to get pregnant. Remember there is more to it than just making a baby.
- Do be romantic. Life will change (in a good way) after a baby comes. But it will never be just like it is now. Enjoy every moment together.