If you’re a woman trying to conceive, you’re probably spending an awful lot of time tracking your cycle, taking your temperature, watching your diet, checking your mucus (oh, the joy …) and all kinds of other things you never realized you’d do in order to get knocked up. You may also be giving your partner the side-eye and thinking, This is so unfair! Why doesn’t he have to completely change his habits and schedule and diet and track things on calendars! And you’d be totally right.
Good news! The burden (although not exactly equal) is on both of you to make sure you’re creating the prime environment for conception. There are actually a TON of things your partner should be doing in order to optimize his little swimmers because remember – he’s 50% of this baby-making equation!
So give this post to the sperm supplier in your life (depending on the circumstances, you may want to literally print it out and hand it to him).
Listen up gentlemen, it’s your turn.
My guess is that thinking about your sperm and their overall health might be a relatively new concept, so let’s start with the basics: a man’s biggest concern in regards to his fertility health are: sperm count, motility, morphology, and varicoceles.
Sperm count is just what it sounds like—the amount of sperm in your ejaculate (semen), most often expressed as the number of sperm found per milliliter (ml) of semen with each ejaculation.
A sperm count anywhere in the range of 15 million to 150 million per milliliter is considered normal. Low sperm count is when the semen ejaculated during an orgasm is less than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Morphology refers to the shape and size of sperm. If sperm have a double tail, no tail, or a head that is crooked, misshapen, has double heads, or a head too large, this makes it a lot harder for the sperm to successfully penetrate an egg. Most men actually have a large percentage of abnormally shaped sperm, with only 4-15% of their sperm being considered normal. The goal is that those 4-15% ideally shaped sperm have the best possible motility (explained below) and overall health.
Motility refers to the sperm’s ability to move the way it needs to and in the direction it needs to in order to penetrate an egg. Sperm have to be FAST to get to the egg in time— if they’re not strong enough swimmers, they’ll die before they ever reach their destination. Once they get there, they have to be strong enough to invade the cervical mucus and penetrate the egg. If less than 40% of the sperm can move in a straight line, then low sperm motility is usually diagnosed.
A common cause of low sperm production, a varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the scrotum. While there are often no symptoms of a varicocele, your testicle may have a dull, achy feeling, and/or painful swelling. A varicocele usually doesn’t need any treatment, but surgery to repair the veins may be recommended if there is a risk that the varicocele is causing fertility problems. If you think you might have a varicocele, talk to your doctor.
In other words, you have to have enough sperm (count) that are strong and in great shape (morphology), are SUPER fast (motility), and don’t encounter any blockages on their way out (varicoceles) in order to make sure that at least one lucky swimmer not only makes it to the egg, but can penetrate the cervical mucus and fertilize that egg. Having lots of healthy, fast sperm is also important to ensure the egg is fertilized with healthy DNA, so that the embryo created is genetically healthy and has a greater chance of surviving throughout the pregnancy.
Which brings us to the next step—finding out what’s going on with YOUR sperm.
Although there are home semen testing kits available, I’d recommend requesting a full semen analysis from your doctor. You’ll get detailed information about your sperm volume, count, morphology and motility, allowing you to make an informed decision about what kinds of lifestyle changes will have the greatest impact on your sperm health. Remember, even if you have a massive amount of speedy, shapely sperm, there are risk factors you’ll want to avoid to keep it that way.
And if you do find out that you have any sperm health issues, remember there’s plenty you can do to improve the situation. Sperm are on a 74 day cycle, so any changes you make starting today will directly impact your sperm health in about three months. This also happens to be about the same time frame as the life cycle of the egg, which is why I always recommend couples put intentional effort into modifying their diet and lifestyle a solid three months BEFORE conception!
So let’s talk about what you can do. First, the things to avoid:
Studies have shown that many of the toxins found in plastics and other manufactured goods can negatively affect your sperm health. Unfortunately, these toxins are getting harder and harder to avoid all together, but you can still reduce your exposure. Bisphenol A (or BPA) is found in plastic packaging, plastic water bottles, the lining in canned goods, plastic lids, and even in receipts, and has been shown to reduce sperm count.
Other toxins to avoid are phthalates, parabens, and sodium lauryl sulfate (found in soaps, lotions, shampoos and other hair products, shaving cream, etc.), pesticides (found in/on fruits and vegetables), antibacterial soaps, harsh cleansers, and in things like flame retardants, paints, and sunscreen. All of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, which mimic the body’s natural hormones and can cause imbalances, resulting in poor sperm health.
This stuff is everywhere these days, and unfortunately you will probably not be able to eliminate your exposure to endocrine disruptors altogether, but here’s a quick and dirty list of actions to take to reduce your exposure to toxins as much as possible:
Focus on eating real, whole, fresh food that you cook yourself, and be sure to incorporate the following into each meal:
In addition, be sure to eat the following Male Fertility Superfoods daily:
There a TON of options when it comes to supplement for sperm health, but I’ve narrowed down my top 6 for you:
A healthy you = healthy sperm! There’s no one particular food or thing that is going to turn your boys into secret egg-fertilizing super agents. And unfortunately there are some things you can’t control. But there ARE key lifestyle and dietary changes you CAN make to increase your sperm health and fertility.
Drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces of clean, filtered water per day. Do not drink out of plastic water bottles. Purchase a water filter for your home, and then use glass or stainless steel refillable water bottles. The AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System is one of my favorites
Keep your boys cool! Did you know that your testes’ biggest job is keeping your sperm at the optimal temperature? If things get too hot down there, it can reduce sperm production. Help your testicles create the perfect environment for making healthy sperm by avoiding the following:
Reducing stress is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your sperm health. I know this is easier said than done, but start small. Take a daily walk outside to clear your mind, try meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or massage, and just do your best to do at least one small thing each day that you enjoy. Self-care is sperm care!
Find an activity that you love—running, yoga, tennis, hiking, sports—just remember to avoid activities like cycling, take breaks to keep the boys cool, and avoid the sauna! HIIT training is awesome for increasing testosterone production which is super important for sperm health!
Set Your Sperm Free!
The best news so far in this post may be that frequent ejaculation can actually increase sperm production (it’s a demand/supply thing). However you manage it, try and ejaculate daily whenever possible. Yay! Orgasms for everyone!
We’ve talked about some pretty major lifestyle changes, and you may be thinking, No more hot tubs? No more cycling? Seriously?
But remember that 74 day cycle: what you are doing now impacts your sperm for about three months. So even though many of these changes are good for your overall health (like quitting smoking!), most of them will only be temporary (like cutting back on the sauna or cycling).
However, you can go on having daily orgasms for as long as you like!
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Have you had issues with sperm count, motility, or morphology?
Did lifestyle changes make an impact?
Spread some Men’s Health lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
Don’t forget to check out my brand new ebook about how to Heal Hormonal Chaos and Increase Fertility Naturally, Without Drugs & Expensive Treatments! In this eye opening ebook, you will discover my top natural remedies to heal the six most common hormone conditions that affect your fertility.
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