By Dr. Francisco Arredondo, MD MPH
Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and OBGYN with over 20 years of experience
If you are interested in learning more about female fertility preservation, you can also check out Dr. Francisco Arredondo’s piece entitled When is the right time to chill your eggs?, which discusses when and why women should consider freezing their eggs.
When was the last time you thought about male fertility or your sperm quality? For most men, the answer is usually “never”, and that’s completely normal. The idea of a “biological clock” is typically thought to relate to female fertility, but men’s “clocks” should also be considered too. What most people don’t realize is that out of the 1 in 7 couples struggling to conceive, 30-50% of issues result from poor sperm health. In fact, male fertility has declined 50% in the past 40 years, leaving men half as fertile as their fathers were.
Understanding how healthy sperm works is important, not just as an indicator of fertility, but also as a marker of your overall health. Studies show that testicular function is closely linked to reproductive problems and chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. This is because of the significant implications that sperm health can have on fertility and more generally, men’s health. It is imperative to understand the origin of the issue. An increasing amount of research points to not only natural aging, but lifestyle factors and environmental factors as the main drivers of sperm decline. You can find a more technical explanation of sperm through our What is Sperm guide.
The idea of a “biological clock” is typically thought to relate to female fertility, but men’s “clocks” should also be considered too.
Does Age Affect Male Fertility?
- The older the male, the more risks to future children; a recent study found that among fathers above 40 years of age, the risk of having a child with autism increased nearly six-fold.
- Semen quality can diminish — sperm’s volume lessens with age and the motility and shape of sperm can decline, reducing the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.
- There is early evidence that women could face pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia if their partner is over 45.
- Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, autism, and low birthweight. Some research suggests that children of older fathers have a greater risk of cognitive issues and other maladies.
Lifestyle Choices and Male Fertility
- Habits such as how long you sleep, regular exercise and how long you sit can have positive or negative effects on your sperm.
- Sleep is very important for your sperm count; the circadian rhythms that regulate your behavior and physiology can be affected by abnormal sleep schedules and exposure to blue light at night. Chronic sleep deprivation (less than six hours a night) reduces testosterone levels, lowers sperm count and motility.
- Even if you exercise often, the type of exercise you do also matters. Cycling can be one of the most troublesome activities for fertility due to sitting on the saddle, overheating, and wearing clothes that are too tight. In a number of studies, cycling has been associated with abnormal sperm morphology and reduced motility. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight and bmi (body mass index) when thinking about physical activity.
- Smoking, alcohol consumption, and recreational drugs are also habits to watch out for. Engaging in these activities too frequently could negatively affect your sperm. You can learn more about how alcohol, drugs, and other factors may impact fertility through the Legacy Sperm Quality guide.
Do Environmental Factors Effect Male Fertility?
- When thinking about health, it is also important to consider the world around you. Are you heating up plastic containers? BPA and Phtalates, which are chemicals found in plastics and food packaging, can leach into your food. This may affect testosterone and impact the development of fetuses.
- How you handle your electronics also matters. Do you sit with your laptop on your lap or carry your phone in your pocket? Cell phone radiation may potentially decrease your sperm’s motility, and an overheated laptop on your lap could affect your sperm’s morphology.
- Exposure to our devices’ (blue light at night) can also have a negative effect on our circadian rhythm, which in turn is detrimental to sperm production. Avoid screen-time at least a half hour before going to bed. Putting your phone in another room could also help lessen the temptation to check one last email before sleeping.
- While eating fruits and vegetables is an overall positive step towards health, pesticides is a factor to look out for. Studies have shown that men who eat fruits and vegetables with higher levels of pesticide residues had lower sperm counts and lower percentages of normal sperm. Opt for organic produce next time you’re in the grocery store, especially with those dubbed “The Dirty Dozen”.
It may be overwhelming to consider the impact our lives have on our reproductive health. The good news is that much of our daily routine can be modified to optimize for sperm improvement. While we can’t control the process of natural aging or our biological clocks, we can try our best to monitor what we come into contact with on a daily basis. Although fertility problems are not always treatable, there are numerous lifestyle choices and supplements that can be used to promote sperm health and sperm production.
Lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and sleep can have a positive impact on both sperm quality and sperm count. Additionally, cutting back on alcohol consumption and drug use may increase testosterone production as well as the viability of healthy sperm. Eliminating alcohol and drugs may also positively affect your sleep, exercise, and eating regimen, all of which are largely related to male fertility and, more importantly, overall health.
If you’re not getting adequate nutrients or following a healthy diet, it might be beneficial for you to invest in certain fertility-boosting supplements. Vitamin C and E are both antioxidants that have been shown to effectively protect sperm from damage. Folate, a type of B-vitamin, plays a big role in the creation and development of sperm and may increase sperm concentration. In fact, the positive impact of Folate is shown to be even stronger when combined with Zinc, which has been referenced as one of the most significant supplements for male fertility.
It’s important to note that these healthy lifestyle changes and supplement recommendations might not solve all of your reproductive or fertility issues. If you or your partner are experiencing continuous challenges, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a fertility specialist to discuss the best course of action.
In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, there are measures that can be taken to analyze sperm health and proactively manage and preserve your fertility. However, any man who has gone to a fertility clinic for a sperm analysis will tell you that the experience is less than ideal. The traditional process of testing and freezing your sperm is uncomfortable, inconvenient and expensive. Not only does it require making an appointment that likely falls in the middle of the day, but the idea of producing and to ejaculate the sample in a small room with a stack of used magazines is emasculating and awkward.
Legacy’s mission is to improve this experience by providing men with an at-home solution. With the Legacy kit, you are able to produce the sample in the comfort of your own home, without ever speaking with a doctor or stepping foot in a clinic. Legacy will then arrange for priority overnight shipment of the kit back to our partner clinic in Chicago. Within 48 hours, you will receive a comprehensive clinical analysis that assesses over 50 data points and provides lifestyle recommendations for sperm improvement. Legacy clients then have the option to cryogenically store their youngest and healthiest sperm for future use.
“Interested in learning more about sperm health and preservation options? Schedule a call with a Legacy team member here.
Pricing for the Legacy service starts as low as $19.99/month.
We are also offering a limited-time $50 discount off of our Bronze package with the promo-code ROBYN.”