When planning a pregnancy, women are usually bombarded with advice on how to prepare for the pregnancy, how to eat and drink healthily and so on. In the past, it was always assumed that the primary responsibility for a successful pregnancy and birth lay solely with the woman.

Fortunately, times have changed and nowadays it is accepted that men have a vital role to play in the form of ensuring healthy sperm and improved fertility. How to improve sperm health is an increasingly discussed topic. It is only when trying for a baby that any problems with male fertility show themselves.

Causes of male fertility problems

Medical issues are most often the barriers to good healthy sperm and these are only usually diagnosed after a considerable length of time spent trying for a baby with no pregnancy. These medical issues can include:

  • A problem with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus means that signals to the testicles to produce testosterone and sperm simply do not happen.
  • Testicular disease
  • Sperm motility or transport disorders
  • Age. After the age of 50 the production of sperm tends to decrease with age, as does the ability of sperm to move through the reproductive tract.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are known to cause male infertility

Make changes for healthy sperm

For a man trying to make his partner pregnant, a few simple lifestyle changes may be just the thing needed to improve sperm health. You don’t need to do anything too drastic; all you need is to follow these steps:

  • Some research has indicated that a high BMI (body mass index) is linked to decreasing sperm count so try to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This means eating healthily and exercising regularly
  • A healthy diet is one which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of water
  • Move around more. It has been shown that moderate physical activity can increase levels of antioxidant enzymes to protect the sperm
  • Manage stress. A healthy diet and exercise regime can help to manage stress which can disrupt sperm-producing hormones. If you need help managing your stress levels talk to your doctor.

In some cases, more serious changes may be required to protect or improve fertility:

  • Quit smoking to increase sperm count.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake. Heavy drinking can be the cause of decreased sperm production, reduced testosterone production and even impotence. A healthy intake of alcohol for men would be two glasses per day of standard strength beer or wine.
  • Stay cool by wearing loose-fitting underpants. Research has shown that increased scrotal temperature can adversely affect sperm production. Prolonged sitting, using saunas or hot tubs, or sitting with a laptop on your lap for excessive amounts of time should be avoided in order to limit scrotum exposure to heat.
  • Check medications as some, such as calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, opioids and other medicines, can contribute to fertility issues. Illicit drugs and anabolic steroids can also affect fertility.
  • Be safe at work if you are exposed to pesticides, lead and other toxins, as these can affect the quantity and quality of sperm. Always wear PPE to protect yourself from exposure to sperm-destroying toxins and avoid skin contact with chemicals.

Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, have been known to impair sperm production and even lead to permanent infertility. Discuss the possibility of retrieving and storing sperm prior to starting treatment of this kind.

When to seek help

Hopefully, adopting a healthy lifestyle will be all that’s needed for healthy sperm, but after a year of trying for a baby with no success, you should see a doctor to get your sperm count checked with a semen analysis as a first step.