How to optimize male fertility and sperm count
We spend a lot of time talking about women’s fertility health, including myths and facts about fertility nutrition, age and fertility, factors that can affect fertility and ovulation, and how to boost your fertility health. But what about men’s fertility health?
Turns out, there are some easy steps your partner can take to help optimize the health of their sperm and protect their fertility.
Six considerations on male fertility
1. Wear boxers instead of briefs
A 2018 study reported that men who frequently wore boxers had 25% higher sperm concentration, 17% higher total sperm count and 33% higher amount of moving sperm compared to men who wore more constricting underwear.1 Heat can affect testicle sperm production,2 and tight underwear may produce more heat.1
It takes a germ cell around two-and-a-half months to mature into a sperm cell capable of fertilizing an egg. This means your partner shouldn’t switch to boxers only when you’re ovulating. Wearing loose clothing regularly over an extended period can help him ensure his sperm cells aren’t damaged as they mature.
2. Stay cool
Testicles sit outside the body for a reason: They’re super-sensitive to heat. A normal testis should be between 89.6° and 95°F.2 While the main role of the scrotum is to regulate heat,2 outside factors can adversely affect testicular temperature, such as:
- The surrounding air temperature
- What your partner is wearing
- How he normally sits (e.g., legs crossed vs. uncrossed)
- His occupation and lifestyle (including putting laptops directly on his lap or sitting in hot tubs)2
Keeping the testicle area at an optimal temperature may help increase sperm count and production.2
3. Watch alcohol, tobacco and drug consumption
Numerous studies have shown that smoking has a negative impact on sperm production. If your partner currently smokes, quitting can positively impact men’s fertility.3,4
An occasional beer shouldn’t affect male fertility — but studies do show that chronic and excessive alcohol consumption can negatively affect sperm quality.5
And according to a 2019 study, cannabis use is strongly associated with reduced sperm count and concentration, morphological changes in sperm and reduced sperm motility and viability.6
4. Talk to the doctor about any medications
Some prescription medications or even over-the-counter medicines can affect male fertility.
A healthcare provider can help you determine what medications may impact sperm health and male fertility.
5. Look for ways to reduce stress
Stress — particularly severe stress, a stressful event such as moving or changing jobs, or even perceived stress (such as providing a semen sample) — can all negatively affect sperm quality.7
Help your partner look for ways to reduce stress, including exercise, practicing mindfulness, yoga, meditation and acupuncture.
6. Make healthy lifestyle choices
Studies have shown that while obesity can adversely impact men’s fertility, the damage can be reversible.8 Following a balanced, healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can help keep sperm in good condition. You may also consider taking fertility vitamins for men — talk to your healthcare provider for recommendations.
The word “partner” is important. His fertility health plays an important role in your pregnancy journey, and talking about it openly with him will help ensure you’re both actively involved. Not sure where to start? Send him this article with an encouraging note and a fun emoji.
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- Minguez-Alarc n, L., Gaskins, A.J., Chiu, Y.-H., Messerlian, C., Williams, P.L., Ford, J.B., Souter, I., Hauser, R., Chavarro, J.E., (September 2018), “Type of underwear worn and markers of testicular function among men attending a fertility center,” Human Reproduction, 33(9), 1749–1756, https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/33/9/1749/5066758
- Durairajanayagam, D., Rakesh, K. Sharma R.K., du Plessis, S.S., Agarwal, A., (2014), “Testicular Heat Stress and Sperm Quality,” Male Infertility: A Complete Guide to Lifestyle and Environmental Factors, Springer Science+Business Media New York, http://www.clevelandclinic.org/reproductiveresearchcenter/docs/publications/93_Durairajanayagam_et_al_Heat_Stress.pdf
- Sharma, R., Harlev, A., Agarwal, A., Esteves, S.C., (October 2016), “Cigarette Smoking and Semen Quality: A New Meta-analysis Examining the Effect of the 2010 World Health Organization Laboratory Methods for the Examination of Human Semen,” European Urology, 70(4), 635–645, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0302283816300690?via%3Dihub
- Kovac, J.R., Khanna, A., & Lipshultz, L.I., (February 19, 2015), “The Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Male Fertility,” Postgraduate Medicine, 127(3), 338–341, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00325481.2015.1015928
- Sansone, A., Di Dato, C., de Angelis, C., Menafra, D., Pozza, C., Pivonello, R., Isidori, A., & Gianfrilli, D. (January 15, 2018), “Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and male fertility,” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 16(1), 3, https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12958-018-0320-7
- Payne, K.S., Mazur, D.J., Hotaling, J.M., Pastuszak, A.W., (October 1, 2019), “Cannabis and Male Fertility: A Systematic Review,” The Journal of Urology, American Urological Association,” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 16(1), 3, https://www.auajournals.org/doi/10.1097/JU.0000000000000248
- Ilacqua, A., Izzo, G., Emerenziani, G. P., Baldari, C., & Aversa, A., (November 26, 2018), “Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on male fertility,” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 16(1), 115, https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12958-018-0436-9
- Katib, A., (March 13, 2015), “Mechanisms linking obesity to male infertility,” Central European Journal of Urology, 68(1), 79–85, http://ceju.online/journal/2015/obesity-bmi-ed-male-infertility-spermatogenesis-hypogonadism-435.php