Male preconception is an important topic if you’ve decided that you’d like to start a family of your own. There’s no such thing as “too early” to start maintaining your health in a way that will give you the best chances of conceiving. And, although the majority of information out there about preparing for pregnancy puts the focus on what women can do during the preconception stage, men also have many things they can and should do to optimize their health and increase their odds of successfully conceiving. Here, we’ll go through 6 tips for everyone to keep in mind about male preconception.
Identify any underlying health conditions related to male preconception
If you’re planning on trying to conceive, it’s a perfect time to schedule a check up with your doctor. There are many underlying health conditions that can impact male fertility, from type 1 diabetes and mumps to kidney disease and hormonal conditions.
In addition, medications you’re already taking may have the potential to impact male fertility. Having a doctor’s guidance to let you know what things might impact your ability to conceive and what options you have to overcome any challenges is critically helpful as you and your partner try for pregnancy.
While at the doctor, it’s also important to make sure that you are free of any sexually transmitted infections (STI). Untreated STIs can cause fertility problems in both men and women, and it is possible to have an STI and not experience any outward symptoms. Make sure to tell your doctor that you are trying to conceive and would like to screen for anything that might impact your fertility.
Cut out smoking and drinking alcohol
Smoking cigarettes is known to lower your sperm count and damages the sperm that you do have, making them less likely to successfully fertilize an egg. It’s important to note that sperm with abnormalities in size, shape, and motility (the ability of sperm to move properly) have been shown to significantly increase the risk of a pregnancy ending in a miscarriage. Some studies have found a 23% decrease in sperm concentration in men who are cigarette smokers. So, cutting out smoking can make a major difference when you’re trying for a pregnancy. And while most studies discouraging smoking during preconception are focused on tobacco cigarettes, most experts also recommend stopping smoking marijuana as well.
Alcohol is also known to have a negative impact on male fertility. Consuming alcohol regularly and in large quantities can cause sperm count to drop; impact sperm size and motility; and lower testosterone levels and raise estrogen levels — which in turn causes reduced sperm production. With sperm production taking roughly three months, it’s good to cut out cigarettes and alcohol ideally at least three months before trying to conceive.
Eat a healthy diet
A lot of achieving peak preconception health has to do with achieving peak health in general. Taking care of yourself in ways that will boost your overall health, wellness, and immune system will increase the health of every system in your body (including the parts that contribute to the production of healthy sperm). Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins, and overall nutrient-dense foods is key to increasing male fertility. In particular, some studies have shown that men who have a healthy amount of folic acid in their diet (400 milligrams per day) are more likely to have healthy sperm.
Keep mental health balanced
As you make it a priority to keep your body healthy, don’t forget about your mind! The reality is, sometimes the road to conception isn’t completely smooth. As you try for a baby, maintaining good mental health isn’t just beneficial to your partner, it also has a direct impact on your overall health.
Stress in men has been shown to decrease testosterone, lower sperm count, and decrease sperm motility, and one National Institutes of Health study found that depression in men can also lower the chances of having a successful pregnancy. Your mental health and physical health are connected, so, if necessary, adopt new practices or talk to a therapist in order to help you lower stress and improve your overall mental health.
Avoid dangerous toxins
If you’re a man working a job that involves being around toxic or otherwise dangerous materials — like chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, plastics, even sawdust from treated wood — be mindful of the impact these substances can have on your fertility. These substances have the potential to impact your hormonal balance, leading to irregular sperm and a lowered sperm count.
But don’t think that you’re safe if you have an office job — radiation exposure from items like laptops and cellphones have also been associated with poorer sperm health. No matter what your profession, men looking to start a family should make sure that they are taking appropriate safety precautions and wearing the right protective clothing and gear, if necessary.
Keep the heat down
If that last section left you confused at the mention of laptops being a danger to male fertility, there’s more — keeping your laptop on your lap can also damage sperm because of the heat. Sperm die when testicles become overheated, so keeping any tech off of your lap and avoiding things like saunas and steam rooms are important for keeping your sperm count and health high.