For some, getting pregnant happens quickly and effortlessly. But for others, it may take months or even years to start the family they’ve always wanted. In fact, one in eight couples will experience difficulty when trying to conceive. About 30% of cases are attributed solely to the female partner, 30% solely to the male, 30% a combination of both partners, and in 10% of cases, the cause remains a mystery.
Although the reasons couples may struggle are pretty evenly divided, the resources available for men and women aren’t always equal, leaving questions about what you can do to support male fertility.
Well, this is all about male fertility: where to start and what can help you on your path to parenthood.
Where should you start?
When conceiving naturally just isn’t working the way you planned, it may be time to seek help from a urologist. They’ll usually perform a semen analysis to reveal some important information about your fertility, including:
- Sperm count. This is the total number of sperm in the semen sample.
- Motility.This is the percentage of sperm that are moving forward.
- Morphology. This is the percentage of sperm that have a normal shape.
If these results aren’t quite normal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to conceive. But, your doctor may order more tests or refer you to someone who specializes in male fertility to give you the best chance of starting a family.
Can diet and lifestyle habits help support male fertility?
Diet and lifestyle play a huge role in overall health, and it also impacts male fertility. Consider these habits when you’re trying to conceive:
- Follow a healthy diet.
Focus on filling your plate with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods provide a variety of nutrients that help support sperm quality and male fertility. Do your best to limit sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages – research suggests that these may affect sperm motility.
- Exercise regularly.
Research shows that moderate physical activity may support healthy semen quality and male fertility. But it’s important to stay consistent with your exercise routine while trying to conceive – one study found that sperm quality dropped to baseline about one week after stopping the exercise program. Find an activity you enjoy and try to participate in moderate-intensity exercise at least 3 times per week.
- Avoid smoking.
The effects of smoking extend far beyond heart, lung, and immune health. Smoking is also connected to lower sperm count, which impacts male fertility. And although many believe that vaping or e-cigarettes are safer options, the available research suggests that they may hinder male fertility, too.
When it comes to marijuana, the evidence is mixed. One study found that neither marijuana use nor the frequency of use delayed the time it took couples to conceive. However, some research suggests that marijuana use may affect semen quality, including sperm count, shape, and motility.
More research is needed to further determine the connection between sperm health and marijuana use, but most experts recommend when trying to conceive to support optimal fertility.
- Limit alcohol.
Studies have linked alcohol to lower testosterone and sperm production. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting alcohol to two drinks or less per day for men that drink. One standard drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
- Sleep well.
When it comes to sleep, quality is just as important as quantity. Set yourself up for 7-8 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep each night by:
- Making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
- Avoiding caffeine and large meals before bed.
- Remove electronic devices from the bedroom.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine.
Should you take a male fertility supplement?
While a healthy, balanced diet is essential for overall health and male fertility, research has found that certain nutrients are linked to sperm quality.* High-quality male fertility supplements can provide consistent doses of key vitamins, minerals, an phytonutrients to support sperm health.*
What should you look for in a male fertility supplement?
What goes into your supplements determines what you get out of them. Look for a high-quality supplement that features these research-backed nutrients for male fertility:*
These vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have been studied and shown to help promote sperm health, including sperm count, morphology, and motility – the three major factors that impact male fertility.*
If you’re interested in learning more about how each individual nutrient impacts sperm health, check out this blog: “Do Men Need a Prenatal, Too?”
But remember, it’s not just the Supplement Facts Panel that you need to look at. Be sure to choose a male fertility supplement that’s independently tested and certified by a trusted organization, like NSF International or USP. This is your best guarantee that what’s in the product matches what’s on the label, and there are no harmful contaminants, like heavy metals or bacteria.
How long should you take a male fertility supplement?
Sperm development, also known as spermatogenesis, is a complex process that takes a lot of time. It can take up to three months for sperm to fully mature and be ready to function at their best. So, give yourself time to focus on your fertility, and try to start taking a male fertility supplement at least three months before you try to conceive. Most men continue to take male fertility supplements until their partner becomes pregnant.
Sometimes starting (or growing) your family takes time. When diet and lifestyle habits don’t seem to be enough, be sure to seek help from a healthcare provider, and consider adding a male fertility supplement to your daily routine to maximize your fertility and sperm quality.*