WATCH YOUR WEIGHT
“The healthier the body, the healthier the sperm,” says Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, co-director of the PUR Clinic in Clermont, Florida. A study by Harvard School of Public Health found that overweight men were 11 percent more likely to have a low sperm count and 39 percent more likely to have no sperm at all in their ejaculate than normal-weight men. The news was even worse for men who were obese; they were 42 percent more likely to have a low sperm count and 81 percent more likely to produce no sperm than men at a normal weight.
DITCH THE CIGARETTES
Smoking doesn’t just affect your lungs, it can also impact your fertility. “Smoking is known to affect our sperm count, motion, and general health of sperm. Tobacco metabolites can even be found in semen,” says Edmund Sabanegh, MD, director of the Center for Male Fertility at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. The good news: Sperm health seems to bounce back relatively quickly once men quit.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
It’s important to use your bed for more than just sex when you’re trying to make a baby. A study at Boston University School of Public Health followed nearly 800 couples who were trying to conceive and found that men who slept less than six hours and more than nine hours a night had a 42 percent lower probability of getting their partners pregnant than men who slept seven to eight hours each night. Researchers believe hormones are likely to blame for the lower chance of pregnancy; testosterone is crucial for sperm production and most of it is produced when men are asleep.
TEST YOUR SPERM
Women often track their ovulation at home to determine the small window each month when they have the greatest chance of conceiving. Now, men can monitor something of their very own, right alongside them: sperm. Trak Male Fertility Testing System is a new FDA-approved at-home test where men can measure their sperm count. A corresponding app then allows them to track their daily habits (eating, sleep, exercise, etc.) to determine how those factors may be affecting their sperm health. “A lot of couples keep trying and never know until they finally see a specialist what’s going on. This way, they can start checking for stuff at home and make changes through the help of the app before they even see a doctor,” says Dr. Brahmbhatt. While the Trak system isn’t meant to replace the help of fertility specialists should your sperm count come back low (a small device uses centrifugal force to isolate the sperm from your semen sample and rates the count on a three-tiered scale of low, moderate, optimal), Dr. Brahmbhatt says that it usually takes at least three months to see a change in sperm quality after making necessary lifestyle adjustments, so checking things out at home first can get the ball rolling in the right direction.
LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION
You and your mommy-to-be should both limit caffeine intake when you’re prepping for baby. A new study in the journal Reproductive Toxicology found that men who consumed more than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (mainly via soda and energy drinks) had a lower chance of getting their partner pregnant compared to those who took in less caffeine. One can of a popular energy drink contains a little more than 100 milligrams of caffeine. More research needs to be done to determine the link.
STEER CLEAR OF HEAT
Heat can be damaging to the testicles. There’s a reason they have a slightly lower temperature than the rest of the body, they function better that way,” says Dr. Sabanegh. Avoid hot tubs or anything that heats up your pelvis area, like laptops or heat packs, he says.
EAT YOUR VEGGIES
Prepping for a baby is the time when it’s even more important to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Not only does having enough vitamins and minerals contribute to overall sperm health, Spanish researchers found that the antioxidants found in many types of produce is associated with better semen quality. “Just like eating French fries is bad for your heart, your testicles are an organ too and feed off the same nutrients the rest of your body feeds off,” says Dr. Brahmbhatt. These are some of the healthiest fruits and veggies for your body.
GET OFF THE COUCH
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that healthy young men who watched more than 20 hours of TV a week had a 44 percent lower sperm count than those who watched almost no TV. They also found that men who exercised for 15 or more hours a week had a 73 percent higher sperm count than those who got less than five hours of activity. “We seem to have better hormone levels when we exercise regularly and testosterone levels seem to be higher,” says Dr. Sabanegh. Regular exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight, another fertility factor. But consider avoiding the bike as your exercise of choice. One study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that men who bicycled for more than five hours a week had a lower sperm concentration than men who didn’t get regular exercise.
CONSIDER YOUR ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE
“Alcohol in high levels can lower fertility and hurt our liver, which affects hormone levels. Marijuana and other drugs like opiates also affect the hormones required in sperm production,” says Dr. Sabanegh.
KEEP AN EYE ON BLOOD PRESSURE AND CHOLESTEROL
High blood pressure and cholesterol can cause erectile dysfunction, which means it’ll be harder for you to contribute your necessary dose of sperm, but it can also hamper your chance of getting pregnant. A study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the University at Buffalo, and Emory University in Atlanta found that couples who had collectively high cholesterol levels took the longest time to get pregnant. Saturated and trans fats can cause blood pressure and cholesterol levels to spike; these are signs you might be eating too much bad fat.
AVOID TESTOSTERONE SUPPLEMENTS
If you’re taking testosterone supplements to bulk up at the gym, you might have to make do with natural muscle-building methods while you’re trying to conceive. “Testosterone supplements trick the body into thinking it’s getting enough of the hormone, so it stops making it itself and sperm count lowers to almost zero,” says Dr. Sabanegh. The good news: Once you stop taking supplements, sperm count bounces back.
ADD DAIRY TO YOUR DIET
Low-fat dairy may be a good addition to your healthy fertility diet. A small study at Harvard School of Public Health found that men who ate the highest amount of low-fat dairy (1 to 3 ½ servings a day) had higher sperm concentration and better sperm motility than men who consumed the least amount.