In Australia, infertility affects about one in every six couples, and it’s estimated that approximately one in every three cases is due to fertility problems in the male partner alone.
Infertility refers to a person’s ability to reproduce without medical assistance. While infertility isn’t always treatable, there are things both sexes can do to improve the chances of conceiving. As it’s Men’s Health Week this week (June 15-21), we are looking at 10 tips men might like to know or consider before planning a child.
Remember that fertility issues are more common then most people might think. If you are planning a child, we recommend you book an appointment with your GP first so they can offer you advice and information before you begin trying.
Boosting your Fertility
A man’s health and age can affect his partner’s chances of falling pregnant, as well as the future health of the baby. Sometimes infertility is linked to sexual function, and other times it can be linked to semen quality. Other possible causes could depend on a man’s general health, genetics, fitness, diseases and their diet.
Some of the more natural things you can do before trying to conceive include:
- Try to conceive before you are 40. Men can make sperm into their 70s and beyond, but sperm quality declines with age. For men aged over 45, conception can take longer and the risk of miscarriage increases. Older dads have slightly higher risks of having a baby with autism, or other mental health conditions like schizophrenia.
- Be in a healthy weight range. Being overweight affects sperm quality, reduces sex drive, and can make it harder to sustain an erection. Being underweight can also make it harder to conceive. Eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly is the best way to achieve a healthy weight. Studies have shown that regular exercise is linked to higher testosterone levels and better semen quality. Calculate your BMI (Body Max Index) here.
- Quit smoking. There is nothing safe about smoking. It is best to have quit at least three months before trying for a baby. Smoking can affect erections, damage sperm DNA, and the health impacts for baby include some cancers and other diseases. Call Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit QuitHQ for help to stop smoking.
- Cut back on alcohol. Heavy drinking affects sex drive, erections, and sperm quality. Set yourself a drinks limit, drink slowly and drink water before you have a drink and in between drinks.
– Health Direct has more tips on how to cut down on alcohol.
- Avoid exposure to some chemicals. Toxins and pollutants at home and at work can affect sperm. Examples are pesticides, heavy metals, some chemicals and plastics, and radiation. Wear protective clothing and try to limit your exposure. Also, recreational drugs – despite being illegal – should be avoided as they can cause permanent fertility problems.
- Have a pre-conception medical health check. In about one-third of infertility cases, problems lie with the father. Talk to your doctor about any tests you might need (including checks for sexually transmitted infections) and if you should avoid any medicines you are currently taking. If you have healthy sperm, you have a better chance of conceiving. Note too that anabolic steroids can stop sperm production and it can take two years to get healthy sperm after ceasing them.
- Keep your testicles cool. Heat can affect the testicles’ ability to make sperm. Avoid hot baths, wear loose-fitting underwear and try not to put your laptop on your lap in the months before you start trying to conceive.
- Talk to you GP about your future wishes. This is particularly important if you have medical conditions like cancer as there are ways to preserve your fertility, such as freezing sperm before cancer treatment starts.
- Complementary or alternative therapies. Acupuncture, herbal medicines and massage can help improve your general wellbeing. While there isn’t scientific evidence that these therapies boost fertility specifically there are reported overall health benefits. Check with your doctor first if you are interested in this approach.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep is vital to maintaining your health, regardless of what stage of life you are in. Restricted or excessive sleep has been linked to poor semen quality Try to get eight hours of sleep each night. If you are a shift worker, or have a job that interrupts your circadian rhythm (body clock) try to schedule naps wherever you can, and avoid accumulating sleep debt.
– For further reading about preconception health for men, visit Pregnancy, Birth & Baby.
– For further tips, including about natural libido enhancers and supplements to improve fertility, visit this Healthline
About Men’s Health Week
In Australia, Men’s Health Week provides a platform for challenging and debating key issues in men’s health and helps to raise the profile of men, their health outcomes and health needs.
Interestingly, in Australia:
- Men take their own lives at four times the rate of women (that’s five men a day, on average).
- Accidents, cancer and heart disease account for the majority of male deaths.
- The health status of males in most countries, including Australia, is generally poorer than that of females.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island men, refugees, men in prison or newly released from prison, and men from low socio-economic standing experience have greater health challenges.
- Men are less frequent visitors to general practitioners.
For more information about Men’s Health Week, visit www.menshealthweek.org.au.