Although it makes sense, it may still surprise you that half of all infertility cases can be attributed in part or in full to the man (aka male factor infertility). The good news is that most men are constantly producing new sperm and with the right lifestyle changes a man can significantly increase his sperm count and motility, improve their morphology, and increase their overall male fertility.
Pro tip: Sperm takes anywhere from 40-80 ish days to develop from start to finish, so it is ideal if changes are made 40-90 days prior to semen (re)assessment or attempting to conceive or with fertility treatments like IUI or IVF. After 90 days, you could see improvements in morphology, count, and other measures of improved male fertility.
Assessing Male Fertility
Before we get started on how to increase male fertility, let’s do a quick refresher on how sperm are analyzed and how you would know you need to increase your sperm count, motility, or the likes. It tall starts with the semen analysis (well perhaps first is realizing that your having trouble getting pregnant). The semen analysis is the go-to and gold standard for assessing sperm count, motility, and fertility. A semen analysis will help a doctor determine the viability of a man’s sperm. It will also check if low sperm count or sperm dysfunction are causing infertility. A semen analysis is a very simple male fertility test that collects a number of key data points, but focuses on three main attributes of sperm:
Sperm Count – the concentration of sperm per mL of semen
Sperm Motility – how well sperm move with forward progression
Sperm Morphology – the shape and appearance of sperm
If a semen test returns abnormal results, then your fertility specialist may recommend additional male fertility testing. It is important to remember that the results of a semen analysis are just a measure of your sperm quality at one specific time. There are a lot of ways for you to increase your sperm count and improve your overall fertility – and that is what the rest of this article is all about!
How to Increase Sperm Count, Motility, and Overall Male Fertility Naturally
While you may have come to this article looking for things you can eat, take, or otherwise add to your lifestyle to improve your sperm count and motility, the reality is that eliminating things can increase male fertility as much as adding a few special things in. Here, we’re going to break down both the things that you should stop and things you should add to your life to increase your sperm count, motility, and more.
The census is in. Smoking is flat out bad for nearly all measures of male fertility. One study of over 2,000 men found that heavy smokers had 19% less sperm than those who didn’t smoke.
Another large study of over 1,700 men found that again, male fertility suffers from smoking.
The evidence doesn’t stop there as a host of other studies show that smoking has a negative effect on male fertility.
Interestingly enough, some studies have even found potential mechanisms whereby tobacco may harm fertility. Zinc is a critical nutrient for sperm production and smoking seems to lower the level of zinc in semen. One study found that levels of zinc found in the ejaculate in smokers to be associated with the level of damage done to sperm. While most smokers tended to have lower level of zinc and sperm parameters, men that still had normal zinc levels despite smoking seemed to be less affected; but we’d say it’s still not worth the risk. Other studies , by studying oral tobacco as well as nicotine metabolites in the semen have shown that it’s the toxins in the smoke itself that is causing the damage.
All this leads to a pretty resounding conclusion that stopping smoking can increase sperm count, motility, and other male fertility parameters.
Conclusion: Stop smoking to increase sperm count and motility.
In the past, a majority of the research on alcohol and its effects on fertility was focused on women, mainly because we are so aware of the risks associated with drinking during pregnancy. But the times they are a-changing. New research focusing on men is showing that alcohol can affect overall sexual health and male fertility. One particular study focused on the difference in sperm quality between alcoholic and non-alcoholic men. The results showed that progressive deterioration in semen quality is linked to increasing alcohol cosumption . Sperm volume, vitality, and survival rate also decreased as the quantity of alcohol consumed went up. Of the alcoholics tested, only 12% had normal semen parameters. 37% (three times as many) of the non-alcoholic men had normal semen parameters. The study concluded that alcohol abuse targets sperm morphology and sperm production.
Another study focused particularly on men with a history of chronic alcohol intoxication. The study displayed a drastic improvement of semen characteristics within three months of alcohol withdrawal . A review of 15 studies on alcohol and its effects on male fertility found that daily alcohol consumption had a consistently negative impact on sperm morphology and volume. Using alcohol and tobacco together has also been tied to declining semen quality and sperm DNA damage.
Conclusion: Limit alcohol consumption to increase male fertility and reduce DNA damage of sperm.
Heavy drinking can affect sperm health. Alcohol consumption can cause a shrinking of the testes, changes to the shape, size, and movement of sperm, and lower testosterone levels. The good news is that alcohol’s effects on sperm health appear to be reversible. Sperm take up to 80 or so days to develop, so if you think you want to have a baby, consider cutting back on alcohol consumption three months prior to trying to conceive.
Get Tested for STIs and STDs
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are known to affect the male reproductive process. Studies have shown that chlamydia can cause inflammation in the testicles. This inflammation can cause epididymal obstruction. The epididymis connects the testicle to the male reproductive system. In addition to causing male fertility issues, chlamydia is known to negatively impact female fertility. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
STDs are associated with infectious semen and they increase the chances of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV causes immunodeficiency along with semen deterioration in men. If passed to the female partner, HIV can cause reduced pregnancy rates and higher chances of miscarriage.
If you believe you or your partner may have an STI or STD, it is important to get tested. A review of studies published by the World Health Organization found that in 2012 alone there were approximately 273 million cases of curable STIs among adults aged 15-49: 128 million cases of chlamydia, 27 million cases of gonorrhea, 101 million cases of trichomoniasis, and 18 million cases of syphilis. There are fertility treatments available to help both men and women who have been diagnosed with STIs and STDs.
Conclusion: Test and treat any curable STIs to increase sperm count by alleviating sperm blockages due to inflammation caused by STI.
Keep Those Swimmers Cool – Avoid Hot Tubs, Saunas, and Other High Heat Situations
Spermatogenesis, the production or development of mature sperm, takes place in the testicles. The temperature in the testis is about 30-45°F cooler than the rest of the body. This lower temperature environment is necessary to ensure successful spermatogenesis. Higher temperatures lead to an increase of testicular metabolism that results in spermatic damage. In one study, heat stress caused a decrease in motility and an increase in the percentage of sperm cells with major and minor defects.
A study conducted by the University of California San Francisco found that exposure to hot baths or hot tubs can lead to male infertility. The study focused on 11 male patients who were regularly exposed to “wet heat” from a heated jacuzzi or hot tub. All of the participants were asked to abstain from wet heat exposure for at least three months. Five of the patients (45 percent) showed a mean increase in total motile sperm counts of 491 percent after three to six months. Among responders, sperm motility rose from a mean of 12 percent at the start of the study to 34 percent post-intervention. The results of this experiment were statistically significant. Five of the six patients who did not see an increase in their sperm count or motility were chronic tobacco users. Tobacco use emerged as a possible differentiating factor in this research. Based on the results of the UCSF study, it appears that the negative impact of wet heat on sperm motility can be minimized over time. Fertility specialists recommend avoiding wet heat from hot tubs or heated jacuzzis prior to and while trying to conceive.
Another study published in 2013 focused on the effects of continuous sauna exposure on seminal parameters. The study produced similar results to UCSF’s study on wet heat exposure. Sauna exposure was found to cause impairment of spermatogenesis, including alteration of sperm parameters and sperm DNA packaging.
So keep those swimmers cool! Avoid extreme heat when trying to get pregnant, but don’t panic if you’ve been using the hot tub or sauna. Research has shown the damage caused by exposure to heat, whether dry or wet, is reversible.
Environmental toxins have become more prevalent over the last few decades causing an increase in exposure to human populations. Studies on exposure to environmental toxins suggest a negative impact on semen quality, in terms of sperm concentration, motility, and/or morphology. Many men are exposed to toxins at work. A study in Spain focused on the role environmental toxins play on male infertility in men being treated at an assisted reproduction clinic. The study had 61 participants: 30 infertile males and 31 males with sperm considered to be normal. Of the 30 infertile males, 23 had been exposed to toxins or pollutants at work. Of the 31 men with normal sperm, only 10 had been exposed to toxins occupationally. The toxins included glues, solvents, and silicones. The results of the study suggest that occupational exposure to toxins may often be the cause or a contributing factor to male infertility.
Other research has confirmed the findings of the previously mentioned studies and concluded that toxins also make the chances of IVF success much less likely. The study found that the worst fertility disrupters are organochlorine compounds (chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dioxins), bisphenol A (BPA), and organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. Other chemicals, metals, and air pollutants were also found to damage fertility. For men, environmental toxins cause infertility by disrupting the endocrine system and damaging the male reproductive system. Reducing exposure to environmental toxins can be difficult, especially if you encounter them at work every day. But toxins don’t only enter our bodies through our environment, and reducing exposure elsewhere can be much easier.
Toxins are everywhere. They can be found outside, in the food we eat, and in the cookware and bottles in our kitchens. As you know, fruits and vegetables are often treated with pesticides to deter insects and other organisms from eating them. Unfortunately, these toxins don’t just wash away, and they end up in our food. Pesticides aren’t only found in vegetables because pesticide treatment leads to tainted water supplies. These tainted water supplies cause fish and meat also to contain toxins.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the warnings about BPA, a chemical used to make plastics, and its health effects. BPA is found in most food packaging, cans, and water bottles. BPA products contaminate the foods and water they contain. BPA and other chemicals within pesticides act as xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen) . Research has shown that xenoestrogens cause a decrease in motile sperm counts and overall semen quality.
Minimizing exposure to toxic chemicals can be quite easy. Simply limit the use of products known to contain toxins and be mindful to consume foods that are a single ingredient as much as possible. Also, avoid using non-stick cookware as it contains some of the same chemicals found in pesticides.
This article was written by CNY Fertility.