Can better lifestyle choices improve male fertility?

The lifestyle changes that women are encouraged to make when planning a pregnancy, such as quitting smoking and cutting out alcohol, are well known these days. In the past, less thought was given to the effect of men’s lifestyle choices on the chances of conception, but research has gradually cast more light on this issue. Evidence is mounting that for men, as well as for women, choices around nutrition and lifestyle can have an impact on fertility.

Here are six key areas where simple changes may increase men’s chances of conceiving:

Eating well

Studies suggest that a healthy, balanced diet is associated with increased fertility among men, so those trying to conceive should ensure they eat plenty of fruit and vegetables alongside fish, poultry, wholegrain cereals and dairy products, and avoid highly processed food.

Taking regular exercise

Being overweight or obese may mean you are less likely to conceive, so taking sensible steps to lose excess weight is a sensible lifestyle choice for men wishing to become fathers. Regular exercise plays a key role in a healthy lifestyle and has been found to boost sperm quality. But it is important to note that moderate exercise is preferable to high-intensity workouts, which have been associated with a decrease in sperm quality.

Cutting down alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol may negatively affect sperm quality. While it is not thought to be necessary for men trying to conceive to cut out alcohol altogether, the NHS recommends sticking to a maximum of fourteen units of alcohol per week, spread evenly over at least three days.

Cutting out smoking

Current research strongly suggests that smoking has a negative effect on sperm quality and may affect sperm count, so giving up is a key lifestyle change for men who wish to conceive. Recreational drugs may also reduce male fertility and therefore should be avoided, as should muscle-building steroids. 

Keeping cool

Sperm fares best at a temperature of around 34.5C, a little cooler than the rest of the body. Therefore it is a good idea to keep testicles cool by avoiding tight underwear and taking regular breaks to move around if your work involves sitting for long periods.

Managing stress

Finally, it is important to recognise that stress may have an impact on sperm production, and can also reduce your libido and create strain within your relationship. Trying to conceive can be stressful in itself, of course, so it is even more important to take time out to do the activities that you enjoy and which help you to relax, as well as spending quality time with your partner, family and friends.

So if you are a man trying to conceive, it is clearly worth taking some time to reflect on your lifestyle and consider making positive changes. As well as potentially boosting your chances of conceiving, changing your habits can have a lasting impact on your overall health.

References and Further Information