Much of the time the emphasis is placed on women when it comes to fertility. But as we all know, it takes two to tango and male fertility is just as important for successful conception and pregnancy.
Common issues that occur in relation to male factor infertility include low sperm count or reduced sperm quality.
If a man goes to the doctor for investigations into their fertility, after a physical examination, the most common fertility test will be a sperm analysis. This test checks the semen for its quality and will look at different parameters. These include semen volume, sperm motility, sperm morphology, sperm concentration, sperm count and DNA fragmentation.
Reasons for reduced sperm quality
Sometimes the reasons that lead to poor sperm quality are beyond our control, such as an inherited disorder, a hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicle or a condition that blocks the passage of sperm.
However, some causes of male infertility can be due to our environment or as a result of our diet or lifestyle. Therefore, there are steps we can take to reverse or make positive changes, which can support normal reproductive functions.
Lifecycle of a sperm
On average, it takes 50-60 days for sperm to develop in the testicles and then a further 14 days for them to mature prior to ejaculation. During this time, what we eat and drink as well as how we live our life can affect the quality of sperm.
This makes the three months prior to trying to conceive the perfect time to make changes to a man’s diet and lifestyle. However, changes can take effect in as little time as 1-2 weeks so there is no time like the present!
How to improve sperm health
1. Look at your dietary pattern
Ask yourself what type of diet you have. Is it higher in saturated fat and carbohydrates? Does it contain lots of red and processed meat? If so, it is likely that it is what is classed as a western style diet. This eating pattern can be detrimental to the quality of sperm.
2. Consider your lifestyle
Smoking and drinking heavily has been found to reduce the quantity and quality of sperm.
3. Take a look at your weight
Being of a higher weight or having a higher waist circumference, regardless of overall BMI, can also impact male fertility. As such, losing weight in a healthy way which incorporates all of the fertility-friendly nutrients into your diet can help to improve sperm count.
4. Get tailored advice about supplements
If you have been diagnosed with low sperm quality or an issue with a specific sperm parameter, there may be particular supplements that may be beneficial for you. It is recommended to get advice from a GP, fertility specialist or a Registered Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist who specialises in fertility before taking any supplements.
Male fertility – the bottom line
If you are struggling with male factor infertility, there may be may areas of your diet and lifestyle you can adjust to support your outcomes. Aim to consume a fertility-friendly Mediterranean style diet pattern that includes many of the important micronutrients, such as selenium, zinc, omega 3 and lycopene.
Some small and simple changes to start with are to incorporate nuts and tomatoes into your diet.
For further advice, check out our evidence-based, in-depth ‘Nutrition for Sperm Health Guide and Meal Plan’ or come to us directly for more tailored support.