Diet and exercise may help to boost fertility in most men, experts say. According to experts from the Center of Male Reproductive Health at RMA of New York, various lifestyle changes have been shown to support fertility in men and improve chances of conception.
“It’s important to appreciate that when you have a couple challenged with infertility, about 40% to 50% of the time, we are able to attribute the male as the primary or contributory cause,” said Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, the director of the Center of Male Reproductive Health.
Lauren Manaker, author of Fueling Male Fertility, says that many people assume it’s the woman’s responsibility to make the changes in her body when a couple is having a hard time getting pregnant. But issues with pregnancy and recurrent miscarriage aren’t related only to factors with female fertility.
Whether a couple is trying to get pregnant naturally or they’re undergoing assisted reproduction, men can support the goal with simple changes. However, for men to improve their chances of conception they need to be proactive about their role in conceiving a baby.
“Men don’t access health care with the same seriousness as women do,” said Bar-Chama.
“Women regularly visit their OBGYN from early on in their reproductive life cycle,” Bar-Chama said. Women may deal with issues such as functional cysts which can go away without treatment in six to eight weeks. “But men are often neither proactive or preventative in their approach to medical care.”
An initial fertility evaluation, Bar-Chama says, is a simple first step that men and women can take to determine if a problem exists that’s making it more difficult for a couple to become pregnant. The evaluation encompasses assessing lifestyle risk factors and an initial semen analysis.
The lifestyle factors that affect man’s fertility that can be changed include diet, levels of exercise, stress, and use of tobacco or drugs. These factors can decrease semen parameters such as motility, morphology, and concentration, which may affect pregnancy and miscarriage rates.
Bar-Chama recommends that men looking to improve their fertility include more antioxidants and omega-3s in their diet while cutting back on saturated fats and processed foods. This can help them to boost their diet’s nutrition value, improve overall health, and lose weight in a healthy way.
One way to improve your diet is to start reading the nutrition labels on the foods you eat. A study from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University found that food labels cut back on unhealthy food options by a total of 13%.
Eat more foods high in antioxidants such as blueberries, blackberries, nuts, tuna, and tomatoes to combat oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, which can also be caused by smoking and drug use, can damage cell membranes and impact your sperm’s ability to attach, penetrate, and activate the fertilization process.
It’s also recommended to incorporate two servings of low-mercury fatty fish into your diet per week. This includes salmon, trout, herring, and sardines. Omega-3s are a crucial part of the sperm cell membrane, which is central to fertilization.
Regular exercise is also important not only to boost your fertility but also your overall health. Experts recommend between 75 minutes and 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and strength training twice a week.
Exercise helps to improve blood circulation, strengthens your heart, raises oxygen levels in the blood, and lowers cholesterol levels. You can also find different ways to have fun exercising; you don’t just need to jog down the sidewalk if it doesn’t work for you. For instance, salsa dancing can burn 420 calories or more per hour on average.
It’s important to note that, although these lifestyle changes can’t guarantee conception, they can definitely improve your chances.
“When equal efforts are made about enhancing fertility, couples appear to have an easier time getting pregnant,” said Manaker. “It also sets the tone for the pregnancy: that you’re a team. You are equal partners. It starts the whole process on a nice foot.”