December 01 2020
Back in the day, fertility challenges were almost always blamed on the woman.
But the truth is, just like with egg health, you should keep sperm in mind when you’re trying to get pregnant.
And there are key things that men can start changing in their daily lives right now to improve their sperm count and quality.
Fertility specialists used to say there was nothing that could help with sperm quality or quantity. But now, we know that’s not true.
In fact, men are found to be solely responsible for 20-30% of infertility cases and contribute to 50% of overall cases.
See, ladies? It’s not just us!
This is well-established in the fertility field… but we’re still waiting for it to trickle down into the rest of our culture!
We hear from a lot of women wondering how they can get their partner on board with supporting his fertility in the months leading up to pregnancy.
So… let’s talk about sperm!
Sperm Under Siege!
Over the past 50 years, male fertility has been rapidly declining.
It sounds terrifying, but it’s true.
So let’s get a little nerdy for a minute and look at the facts…
From 1973 to 2011, sperm counts declined ~50%. This is based on sperm count from 185 studies of 43,000 Western men.
That’s a decline of over ~1.5% every year!
Additionally, a higher percentage of sperm are poor swimmers and contain fragmented DNA than during our grandparents’ age, as found in the famous Nottingham Study.
But don’t start panicking yet — there is good news!
There are things that you and your partner can start doing TODAY to improve his sperm quality and quantity!
How to Get Super Swimmers
A lot of people don't realize that sperm are highly sensitive. They are easily damaged by heat, environmental toxins like pesticides, and levels of nutrients within the body relatively easily. They don’t have the ability to protect and repair themselves like other cells in the body.
Basically… they’re vulnerable and exposed to the wear and tear of everyday life.
But the good thing is that new sperm are generated every 70 days. That means every 2.5 months or so, new sperm are produced.
So when men start making lifestyle changes to impact their fertility, it can improve the health and quality of their sperm rapidly!
Kick These Habits
A lot of factors go into the declining sperm quality in the West, but there are several things we know for sure impact sperm health.
And because it’s a 70 day cycle between when sperm are produced and when they die, it’s a relatively fast process to improve the quality of sperm. As soon as you and your partner start implementing these changes, within 2 or 3 months the quality and quantity of his sperm are likely to improve.
Here are a handful of habits your man should consider putting on pause while you’re trying to get pregnant:
Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs around the world — and it acts both centrally and peripherally to cause abnormal reproductive function. In men, cannabinoids have been reported to reduce testosterone, decrease sperm production, and decrease sperm motility.
We recommend that to our patients that they stop marijuana use while trying to get pregnant.
Alcohol is incredibly damaging to cells — especially reproductive cells like sperm that are highly sensitive and can’t repair themselves.
Consistently drinking alcohol has been shown to lower testosterone level as well as other hormones, and raise estrogen level, all of which impact sperm production.
It's also been shown to shrink testes, cause early or decreased ejaculation, and change the shape, size, and movement of sperm.
Toxins such as phthalates, BPAs, and pesticides have been proven to cause negative reproductive harm for men and women.
Watch out for BPAs in canned goods (check for a BPA-free label before you buy), and avoid receipts, which are a common source of BPAs.
Additionally, you should try to avoid plastics, as these can leach phthalates and other harmful chemicals into your food and your body.
And of course, we recommend shopping organically whenever you can!
Keeping his computer on his lap & his phone in his pocket
A lot of evidence supports the fact that heat is damaging to testes.
Sperm do best when they’re cooler than the rest of the body. When sperm are exposed to temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, they express a protein that causes them to develop abnormally and sometimes die before they finish maturing (which can impact sperm count).
And while men’s bodies have a highly-specialized blood supply that helps regulate temperature, it’s best to avoid putting additional heat on them, especially for long periods of time.
So if your partner tends to keep hot electronics near his groin, it’s a good idea to cut back on that.
Using a Hot Tub or Sauna
Same as above. Put it on pause until the baby is made!
Wearing Tight Clothes
It’s kind of a running joke that tight clothing can impact male reproduction, but it’s actually true!
Tight pants — or biking shorts, or briefs — can increase temperatures around the groin, so it’s best to avoid wearing them.
What to Eat for Healthy Sperm
As you’re making lifestyle changes that reduce harm to sperm, try incorporating these foods to improve sperm vitality.
(Psst… if you cook for your partner, it’s really easy to slip this nutritious food into his diet!)
Walnuts are on our fertility superfoods list for both men and women. They should definitely be a staple in your pantry.
They are high in these 3 super nutrients for healthy sperm:
1) Omega-3 fatty acids: Proven to improve sperm motility (how well they swim)
2) Protein: Balances blood sugar
3) Antioxidants: Help combat harmful oxidative stress and free radical damage that sperm are highly susceptible to which renders them less effective in the act of reproduction and fertilization.
Want an easy way to get antioxidants in your diet? Try our Drink Your Antioxidants supplement.
And they’re an excellent source of copper, folic acid, phosphorus, vitamin B6, manganese, and vitamin E, all important nutrients for a healthy reproductive system.
Need more of a reason to eat walnuts?
In 2012, researchers assigned 117 men ages 21 to 35 to eat or not eat approximately 18 walnuts daily for 12 weeks. The researchers analyzed sperm parameters before and after the study period. They found significant improvements in sperm vitality only in the group that ate walnuts daily.
Have them as a snack, crumble them atop your breakfast bowl, smoothie, salad, cooked vegetables… they’re great in sweet or savory dishes!
Fish and Fish Oil
Like walnuts, these are high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants which are proven to improve sperm quality.
In studies of men diagnosed with low sperm count, diets high in antioxidants from fish oil supplements found greatly increased motility and overall sperm quality.
Try our recipe for Anchovy Dressing as an easy way to get fatty acids in your diet.
And if you or your partner are vegan… No worries! You can still get essential fatty acids into your diet using seeds.
Fruits and Veggies (Buy Organic!)
A lot of studies have found a direct correlation between eating fruits and vegetables and improving sperm count.
A study of 250 men who had sperm analyzed at a fertility clinic showed that men who ate higher amounts of fruits and veggies — especially green leafy vegetables and beans — had higher sperm concentrations and better sperm motility compared to men who ate less of these foods.
That’s not really surprising though, since plant-based whole foods are high in antioxidants like co-enzyme Q10, vitamin C, and lycopene which have been linked to higher sperm concentrations.
Keep in mind that pesticides have been linked to lower sperm counts.
One study found that young men who consumed 1.5 servings of high-pesticide fruits and vegetables daily had 49% lower total sperm volume and 31% fewer normal sperm (meaning, not an unusual shape or size).
So make sure your fruits and veggies are organic or at least make sure you thoroughly wash them.
Check out our Fertility Produce Buying Guide to see the “Dirty Dozen” foods we always recommend buying organic, and the “Clean 15” that are safe to buy non-organic.
Bottom line: when you buy organic fruits and vegetables, your partner and your entire family will thank you.
Let us help you prepare for pregnancy
As natural fertility doctors for over 30 years combined, we know how stressful it can be for both partners to figure out exactly what they should be doing to improve their fertility.
Knowing what to eat and making changes to your diet can be hard, but now you don’t have to do it alone.
Our Cultivate Fertility Diet Course is a comprehensive nutritional guide that can help you give your body exactly what it needs to be supported during conception and pregnancy.
The Cultivate Fertility Diet is complete with the most essential macro and micro nutrients to prime your reproductive system for the best chances of conceiving, and addresses the most common nutritional deficiencies that might impact fertility.
No matter where you are in your fertility journey, we’ll provide you with a wonderful foundation for starting your family.
Click here to learn more and register for the Cultivate Fertility Diet Course.