11 Tips to Increase Fertility for Men

Whether you’re just starting to try and get pregnant, or have been trying for a long time, making lifestyle changes to increase your fertility is essential. Here are 11 tips to increase male fertility and improve sperm health.


  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods

  • Have frequent sex

  • Limit soy intake

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Treat underlying medical conditions


  • Smoke

  • Soak in the hot tub

  • Take long, hot baths

  • Sit with your laptop on your lap

  • Wear constrictive underwear


Add Some Antioxidants to Your Diet

Oysters with a slice of lemon, a fertility super food
Oysters are fertility superfoods due to their high zinc content. Zinc is an essential mineral for healthy sperm development. Richard Boll / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

You've probably heard of antioxidants as cancer and heart disease fighters. They may also increase male fertility.

Researchers found that men who took antioxidants in supplement form had less DNA damaged sperm than men who did not take antioxidants. Also, some researchers found that couples had higher pregnancy rates when men took additional antioxidants.

There are many antioxidants, but the ones that have been specifically studied in regards to improving sperm health are:

  • Zinc: found in oysters, crab, red meat, poultry, and beans.
  • Vitamin C: found in many fruits and vegetables, with the highest levels found in red peppers, kiwi, oranges, and grapefruit.
  • Selenium: found in high amounts in Brazil nuts (1 oz provides 780 percent of your daily recommended value). Also found in tuna, cod, beef, turkey, and chicken.
  • Vitamin E: found in nuts, seeds, oils, and leafy greens.
  • Folic Acid: found in beef liver, leafy green vegetables, fruits, beans, and peas, and often in fortified grains.
  • Lycopene: found in tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, and watermelon.

You can try to add more of these foods into your diet or consider taking a supplement.

As with all things, moderation is still best. Don't eat too many of these foods. (Brazil nuts should not be eaten every day, for example.)

If you'd rather take a supplement, make sure you talk to your doctor first. Some supplements can interfere with other medications.


Have Frequent Sex

Couple in bed about to kiss
Frequent sex is important for semen health. Tom Merton / Getty Images

If you want to have a baby, you need to have sex around the time of ovulation. Having frequent sex all month long, however, may help increase your fertility.

Research studies have found that semen health is best when sex occurred less than two days prior.

One study of about 3,000 men looked at sperm motility (how sperm swim) and morphology (the sperm shape) in relation to the number of days they abstained from sex.

They found that in men with low sperm counts, their sperm swam best after one day of abstinence. Sperm shape was best after zero to two days of abstinence.

For men with normal sperm counts, sperm health was significantly decreased after 10 days of abstinence.

To keep your sperm in tip-top shape, you should try to have sex at least twice a week—and not only around the time of ovulation.


Watch Your Soy Intake

Soy Milk and Soybean Products Arranged On An Aqua Tray
Too much soy may be bad for male fertility. Diane Labombarbe / Getty Images

Too much soy may impact your sperm counts, according to a research study that looked at eating habits. The study found men who ate high amounts of soy had lower sperm counts than men who did not.

Just because you don't eat tofu doesn't mean this study won't apply to you. Soy is found in a number of foods today, including fake meat patties, energy bars, and health drinks.

Men who had the highest soy intake had 41 million/ml less sperm than men who did not eat soy foods.

Soy, however, may not be all bad. Other researchers have found that soy may help prevent prostate cancer.

What should you do? The study on soy and sperm counts found that men who were overweight or obese had a stronger reaction to the soy. Also, the higher the soy intake, the lower the sperm concentration was.

If you're overweight or obese, go real easy on your soy intake. For everyone else, just don't eat too much of it.


Avoid Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace

Farmer sitting on a tracker in a field
Farmers, painters, and varnishers have an increased risk of infertility. Photo © User jzlomek from Stock.xchng

If you're having difficulty conceiving, you may want to look at your job.

Farmers, painters, and varnishers as a group have a much higher chance of infertility and significantly lower sperm counts, compared to men who work in other fields.

Metal workers and welders, as a group, had higher incidences of poor sperm motility.

The cause of these higher incidences of infertility and poor sperm health are not known. One possibility is that the chemicals found in paint, varnish, metalworking, and farming (pesticides, for example) may damage sperm.

For metal workers, it could also possibly be a problem with overheating, which can lower sperm counts.

What should you do if you work in one of the above fields? It's a difficult question with no easy answer.

While researchers found poor sperm health for men who worked in these occupations, they have not looked at what will happen if they change jobs, or whether or not there are ways to avoid damaging your fertility health while still working in these positions.

Common sense dictates that avoiding contact with toxins in the workplace as much as possible would be vital, whether that means wearing a mask, wearing gloves, or just keeping your body well-covered and clean from chemicals.


Quit Smoking

Man smoking
Another reason to kick the habit -- smoking impacts your fertility. Photo © User wildan from Stock.xchng

You already know many good reasons to kick your smoking habit. If you weren't convinced yet, now you have one more reason: Quitting smoking may increase your fertility.

Studies on smoking and semen quality found that smoking affects many aspects of sperm health, including decreased sperm counts, decreased sperm motility (the swimming ability of the sperm), and sperm shape.

If you're going through fertility treatments, it doesn't mean you're off the hook and can keep on smoking.

Researchers have also found that smoking had a strong effect on treatment success when using IVF with ICSI fertility treatments.

Yet another reason to quit: Your smoking habit may harm your female partner's fertility. Research has found that women exposed to secondhand smoke have lower IVF success rates and possibly increased risks of pregnancy loss.


Keep Things Cool

Man sitting with laptop on the table
The heat from a laptop may impact your fertility. Instead, place your laptop on a desk or table. Photo © User frencenz from Stock.xchng

You may be able to increase your fertility by keeping cool "down there."

The male reproductive organs are outside of the body for a reason—to keep them at temperatures lower than 98.6 F, our normal body temperature. High temperatures can damage sperm.

Here's how to be sure you're keeping things cool:

Avoid hot tubs or taking long hot baths. 

Avoiding sitting for long periods of time. According to research, sitting for long periods of time can increase scrotal temperatures. If you have a desk job, or even a long commute to work, be sure to get up and walk around now and then. This is good for concentration, too, so you can boost your fertility and your energy all at once!

Don't turn on your seat heater in the winter. Seat heaters, a feature found in some cars that warms up the seat of your car for cold winter mornings, can lead to higher than normal scrotal temperatures.

Don't sit with your laptop in your lap. Both keeping your legs tightly together to balance the laptop, and the heat generated by the laptop itself, can lead to higher than normal scrotal temperatures. Instead, place your laptop on a desk or table.

Boxers? Briefs? Whether or not boxers are more fertility-friendly than briefs is a matter of debate. One study says it makes a difference, but another found no difference. As long as you're not wearing extremely tight, non-breathable fabric, your choice of underwear probably doesn't matter.


Aim for a Healthy Weight

Man stretching in the house, working out to lose weight
Obesity may harm male fertility. Bambu Productions / Getty Images

One way to increase your fertility is to bring your weight to a healthier level. Being over or underweight can upset hormone balance, leading to lower sperm counts.

Not sure if your weight is within the healthy zone? Check your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measurement of your weight that also takes into account your height.

In a study on thin men, they found that those with a BMI less than 20 had lower sperm concentration and a 28.1 percent lower total sperm count.

They also found that FSH, a hormone that plays a role in the reproductive system, was higher in slim men.

In a separate study, men with obesity had lower testosterone levels. Also, as BMI levels went up, the incidence of lower sperm counts went up.

For example, for men with a normal BMI, 5.32 percent were found to have low sperm count. In overweight men, 9.52 percent had low sperm counts, and in obese men, 15.62 percent had low sperm counts.


Go Easy on the Alcohol

After party, table of alcoholic drinks
An occasional drink is okay, but excessive drinking can harm your fertility. Phil Ashley / Getty Images

A study looking at alcoholics found that only 12 percent of the men had completely normal sperm counts and health, compared to 37 percent of non-smokers and non-alcoholics.

As the amount the men drank went up, sperm counts dropped, normal sperm shape decreased, and sperm motility worsened.

Another study, this one looking at couples going through IVF treatment, found that for every additional drink a man consumed per day, the risk of conception not leading to a live birth increased by 2 to 8 times. This was especially true if the drinking occurred within a month of the IVF treatment.

However, other studies have found no relationship between male fertility and just a few drinks.

What should you do? Moderate drinking is probably okay, especially if you reserve those drinks to a few times a week, instead of daily.

If you're going through IVF treatment, you might consider cutting out alcohol for the time being.


Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy

Dental chair with tools
Regular dental check-ups will keep your teeth and gums healthier, and may even help to protect your fertility. Photo © User jamsession from Stock.xchng

Bacteriospermia, or the presence of bacteria in semen, has been linked to male infertility.

In an interesting research study, 23 percent of men with bacteria present in their semen did not improve after treatment with antibiotics alone. The researchers conducted dental exams on some of the men who did not improve with antibiotics and found untreated dental problems present in all of them.

In a test group, the patients' dental problems were treated. In a control group, the dental problems were not addressed. Six months after dental treatment, researchers tested the semen again.

Two-thirds of the test group had improved semen health, while those in the control group who had not been treated still had poor semen health.

Increasing your fertility is just one more reason to make the dreaded trip to the dentist every six months.


Eat More Greens, Less Pizza

Eating mixed salads and drinking red wine
Westend61 / Getty Images

The role of diet and fertility is not well understood. The topic is difficult to study, since you can’t lock people up in a lab for a year and control everything they eat. That said, studies have attempted to look at possible connections between diet and fertility.

Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have found that eating a so-called “Western Diet” isn’t great for male fertility. This would include foods like pizza, processed meats, high-sugar junk foods, lots of refined grains, and high-sugar drinks.

What’s better for your sperm? Choosing healthier proteins (like fish and chicken), getting lots of veggies and fruits, eating healthy fats (like olive oil and nuts), and more whole grains.   


Treat Underlying Medical Conditions

New patient doctor form
It's important you're honest with your doctor about your current and past health history. Mutlu Kurtbas / Getty Images

Treating underlying medical conditions may help increase your fertility.

Untreated diabetes may lead to infertility, specifically causing retrograde ejaculation. Even if you're without symptoms, you might want to get your blood sugars tested if you have been diagnosed with retrograde ejaculation. Up to one-third of people with diabetes are unaware that they have the disease.

An untreated infection of the reproductive system or urinary tract can cause infertility in men. For example, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may lead to reduced sperm motility, and repeated STD infection may lead to scarring, which can block the passage of semen. Some infections have no symptoms besides infertility, so regular testing is important.

Other medical conditions that can lead to infertility are thyroid disease, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, Cushing's syndrome, and anemia.

These diseases are also frequently missed. For example, it's not uncommon for someone to walk around with thyroid problems for years before getting a diagnosis.

Be sure to get a well-check with your primary care doctor before you start trying to conceive. If you suspect something's not quite right with how you're feeling, voice these concerns. That nagging fatigue that never seems to leave may be something more.

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