A Men’s Guide to Starting the Baby Project: Ovaterra’s Top 3 Male Fertility Tips
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Preparing for a healthy pregnancy
When you feel ready to start trying for a baby with your partner, you may feel a mix of excitement and apprehension. How do you make sure your reproductive health is in the best shape it can be? What are the common, avoidable roadblocks? How do you keep the baby project from overtaking all aspects of your shared life? Because men tend to keep this aspect of their lives to themselves more than women, it can be hard to get real-life, high-impact advice from others who have gone through the same process. Take a look below at our science-driven guide for men who are starting – or planning to start – trying for a baby. Also, check out the Resource Library for actionable reproductive health information for women.
1. Get into healthy habits. Keep up the good ones you already have.
The basis of reproductive health is systemic health. That’s why modifiable lifestyle factors have a significant impact on the health of your sperm. Prioritize these 5 steps for your fertility – but skip to step 2 if you already lead a pretty healthy lifestyle.
- Eat a balanced diet and lean Mediterranean. Often recommended as one of the healthiest ways to eat in general, Mediterranean diet has also been linked to better sperm quality, including motility (sperm’s ability to move), as well as sperm count, concentration and morphology (shape of the sperm). Mediterranean diet is largely plant-based with protein primarily coming from seafood and dairy. It’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which has also been linked to sperm health. Specific nutrients that may support sperm health include vitamins like C, D, and E, and minerals like Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium, among others.
- Get good sleep. Men are more likely than women to experience sleep problems, which have been shown to negatively affect male fertility. For example, a study involving close to 1,000 healthy men found that men who slept less than 6 hours had significantly lower sperm count than those who slept more. The sperm of short sleepers also had lower survival rates. If you suspect you are not getting good-quality sleep each night, an at-home sleep test and guidance from a sleep expert can help you understand where you stand – and make plans to sleep better for fertility.
- Incorporate movements into your daily life. Physical activity has been shown to contribute positively to sperm health, as well as the balance of key reproductive hormones like testosterone, FSH and LH. Note, though, that too much intense exercise can have a negative impact on male fertility. A well-known example is intense bicycling, which has been linked to higher incidence of varicocele and problems with sperm quality. “Moderate” is the operative term here.
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Chronic stress has been linked to reduced fertility in both men and women. For example, stress from a job, life events or social strain has been shown to impact sperm count, forward mobility and morphology. However, we all know reducing stress is far easier said than done – and let’s not ignore the fact that trying for a pregnancy can often be a major source of stress. so, focus on finding healthy ways to cope with it.
- Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol and other vices. Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake has been linked to negative effects on sperm health, as well as sexual health of men. However, with inconsistent study designs and measured outcomes, it’s hard to draw a solid conclusion on just how much is too much. That’s why doctors advise avoiding excess, rather than outright quitting. When it comes to smoking, however, definitely quit it, if you do smoke. Cigarette smoking has been shown to negatively impact all aspects of sperm health – and one study found that smoking may interfere with the endocrine functions, reducing testosterone levels while elevating FSH and LH levels.
2. Start protecting sperm health early – 3 months early.
Contrary to popular belief, sperm isn’t produced in a day. Men produce sperm every day, yes, but that sperm has spent anywhere from 74 to 120 days, developing to full maturity in a process called spermatogenesis. These 3- to 4-month period is crucial for the health of your sperm. Think of it as a window of opportunity.
- Consider adding a CoQ10 supplement to your routine. CoQ10, a powerful antioxidant, has been widely used by fertility specialists to support male reproductive health. Antioxidants protect cells and their DNA from oxidative damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS) – especially important during cellular processes involving chromosomal alignment and cell division, like spermatogenesis. CoQ10 also facilitates cells’ energy production in the mitochondria, which is also key for sperm’s development and mobility.
- Reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic endogenous hormones in our bodies. One major endocrine disruptor, bisphenol-A (BPA) has been suggested as potentially harmful to male fertility, as it can bind to hormone receptors on sperm and change the way the sperm functions. BPA is most commonly found in plastics. While many studies were done in animals and in vitro (rather than in humans in vivo), and variations in study design make it difficult to draw a clear conclusion on a number of aspects, fertility experts generally recommend reducing exposure to BPA for male fertility is a good idea. The good news? This step will also protect your partner’s reproductive health.
3. Communicate and don’t let the journey take over your entire relationship.
If it feels to you like these to-do items will overtake your entire life, that feeling probably has a grain of truth. Because reproductive health has a basis in your – and your partner’s – overall health, everything you do in life can feel like it’s connected to your baby project. It can feel pervasive, and it can take a toll on your relationship.
When it starts feeling like an all-encompassing, never-ending rollercoaster, take the time to communicate with your partner. It’s also important to keep the normal, shared rituals of your relationship going strong – if you were into watching Netflix together or going for morning walks together, keep those up. These rituals can strengthen your relationship during what can be a stressful period, and give you both a space to enjoy each other purely for who you are. Our webinar on coping with the stress of this journey, with clinical psychologist Mandy Rodrigues, can help.
Some couples get pregnant just a few months after they start trying. For many, it can take a while, even when there is no fertility issue on either side. Start the pregnancy project with the mindset that it can take some time will help both of you face the ups and downs of the journey with some calm and equanimity – and you can be pleasantly surprised if it happens more quickly than you’d anticipated.
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