11 Tips to Increase Fertility for Men

Whether you have just decided that you're ready to try to conceive, or you have been trying for a long time, you are probably thinking often about your fertility—and whether there is anything you can do to improve it.

Fertility issues that involve the female reproductive system are often difficult to treat, but many of those linked to male infertility are receptive to changing health habits and lifestyle. For example, if a man quits smoking tobacco, improved sperm counts can be seen within 3 months (approximately how long it takes for new sperm to develop).

Here are 11 ways to increase male fertility and improve sperm health.

Do
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods

  • Have frequent sex

  • Limit soy intake

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Treat underlying medical conditions

  • Protect yourself from toxic chemicals

Don't
  • Smoke or use tobacco

  • Drink alcohol excessively

  • Take long, hot baths or use a hot tub

  • Skip dental cleanings

1

Add 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 antioxidants called cancer and heart disease-fighters, but they might also increase male fertility. Researchers have found that men who took antioxidants in supplement form had less DNA damaged sperm compared to men who did not take antioxidants. Additionally, couples had higher pregnancy rates when men took additional antioxidants.

There are many antioxidants, but a few have been specifically studied for their potential to increase sperm health.

Antioxidants and Male Fertility
Folic acid

Beef liver, leafy green vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, and fortified grains

Lycopene

Tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, and watermelon

Selenium

High amounts in Brazil nuts (1 oz provides 780% of daily recommended value), also found in cod, beef, turkey, and chicken

Vitamin C

Many fruits and vegetables, with highest levels in red peppers, kiwi, oranges, and grapefruit

Vitamin E

Nuts, seeds, oils, and leafy greens

Zinc

Oysters, crab, red meat, poultry, and beans

Dietary sources of antioxidants related to increased male fertility.

While the fertility benefits of antioxidant-rich foods are enticing, moderation is still key. For example, eating Brazil nuts every day can lead to an excessive intake of selenium, the symptoms of which include bad breath (specifically "garlic breath"), nausea, diarrhea, and rashes.

if you find that you can't get more of these foods in your diet, you might want to consider taking a supplement. Just make sure to ask your doctor first, as these supplements can interact with medications.

2

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, but having frequent sex throughout the month can boost your fertility.

That said, research has shown that short periods of abstinence could also have the potential to benefit sperm health—whether you're trying to conceive naturally or will be providing a sperm sample for insemination.

A 2017 review of studies published in the International Journal of Women's Health and Reproduction Sciences found that sperm motility, morphology, and production could benefit from periods of abstinence between 3 and 8 days.

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

3

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

Soy is notably found in tofu, but it's also a common ingredient in health drinks, meat alternatives, and protein bars. While some research has suggested that eating a lot of soy could have detrimental effects on fertility, the results have largely been mixed.

There have been studies that proposed the phytoestrogens found in soy and soy-derived products could affect male and female reproduction. However, high-quality research in humans is limited.

More high-quality research is needed to determine what, if any, affect soy has on human reproductive health.

You might choose to limit or avoid soy if you are concerned about the effect it could have on your fertility. Being aware of your overall intake of nutrients and ingredients like soy is part of ensuring your diet is nutritious and balanced.

4

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, but the available evidence indicates that a balanced, healthy diet benefits male fertility. What's best for your sperm is likely what will be most nutritious for your whole body. Choose lean sources of protein (like fish and chicken), plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, healthy fats (like olive oil and nuts), and whole grains.  

5

Quit Smoking

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

There are many good reasons to kick a smoking habit to improve your health, which can include increasing 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.

You might want to consider trying to quit smoking even if you're going through fertility treatments. Researchers have found that smoking had a strong negative effect on treatment success in couples using IVF with ICSI fertility treatments.

Male smoking habits can also affect a female partner's fertility. Research has shown that when women are exposed to secondhand smoke, they have lower IVF success rates and possibly increased risks of pregnancy loss.

6

Limit Alcohol

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

Too much alcohol can decrease your fertility. If you're hoping to conceive, it might be a good time to cut back, or even stop, consuming alcohol.

A study of people with alcohol use disorder found that only 12% of the men had completely normal sperm counts and health, compared to 37% of non-smokers and non-alcoholics.

Higher intakes of alcohol were associated with lower sperm counts, fewer normally shaped sperm, and worse sperm motility.

However, other studies have found no relationship between male fertility and just a few drinks. Moderate alcohol consumption might not have a major impact on sperm health—especially if you only drink a few times a week instead of daily.

7

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, consider what you do for work. Research has shown that certain occupations can affect male fertility.

Farmers, painters, and varnishers (as a group) were found to have a higher chance of infertility and significantly lower sperm counts than men who worked in other fields. Metalworkers and welders (as a group) were also found to have a higher incidence of poor sperm motility.

The cause of these higher incidences of infertility and poor sperm health is not known. One possibility is that the chemicals people in these occupations can be exposed to could damage sperm. Additionally, metalworkers could experience overheating, which can lower sperm counts.

While researchers found men who worked in these occupations tended to have worse sperm health, they have not looked at what would happen if men change jobs, or whether men can avoid damaging their fertility while working these jobs.

Avoiding contact with toxins and hazardous substances in the workplace is vital to every employee's health, not just men with fertility concerns. The steps you can take to stay safe will be specific to your job—whether it means wearing a mask and gloves or keeping your body well-covered.

8

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

Research has shown that high temperatures can damage sperm. The male reproductive organs are outside of the body because they need to be kept at temperatures lower than 98.6 degrees F (our normal body temperature).

In 2015, researchers published a review of research identifying some of the most common heat-related sources of stress on sperm health. Based on their findings, here are a few ways you can keep things cool:

  • Avoid hot tubs and long hot baths, both of which can raise the scrotum's temperature.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Prolonged sitting has also been linked to decreased sperm health. If you have a desk job, get up and walk around throughout the day. The benefits of standing, even if it's just long enough to refill your water bottle or talk to a coworker across the hall, are good for your whole body and mind.
  • Don't turn on your car seat heater. Studies have shown that seat heaters (a feature in some cars that warms up the seat on a cold winter day) can lead to higher than normal scrotal temperatures.
  • Don't sit with your laptop on your lap. Keeping your legs tightly together to balance the laptop, along with the heat generated by the computer itself, can lead to higher than normal scrotal temperatures.
  • Wear breathable bottoms. Whether or not boxers are more fertility-friendly than briefs has long been a matter of debate. As long as you don't wear extremely tight, non-breathable fabric, your choice of underwear probably doesn't matter to your sperm health. That said, some studies have shown that wearing tight underwear or compression garments (like running leggings or bike shorts) could affect sperm, likely due to increased heat without breathing room.
9

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 make sure that you are at a healthy weight for your body. Research has shown that being over- or under-weight can upset the body's balance of hormones, which can lead to lower sperm counts.

A review of research published in 2017 explored the evidence for a connection between obesity and male subfertility. The researchers identified several key influences, including the complex interplay of hormones and body fat, as well as specific health conditions associated with being overweight and obese that could also affect sperm health.

If you are not sure whether you are at a healthy weight, check your body mass index (BMI) and discuss your health goals with your doctor.

10

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

Good oral health (which includes having dental check-ups at least once a year if not every six months) might help increase your fertility. The presence of bacteria in semen (bacteriospermia) has been linked to male infertility.

In one study, 23% of men with bacteria present in their semen did not improve after treatment with antibiotics alone. When the researchers conducted dental exams on some of the participants who had not improved with antibiotics, they found that they all had untreated dental problems.

The researchers divided the men into two groups (test and control). The men in the test group had their dental problems treated while those in the control group did not receive treatment.

Six months later, the researchers tested the semen of all the men again. Two-thirds of the test group had improved semen health, while those in the control group (who had not been treated for dental problems) still had poor semen health.

11

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

Medical conditions and infections can also affect fertility. For example, untreated diabetes can lead to infertility by causing retrograde ejaculation. As many as one-third of people with diabetes do not know that they have it. If you have been diagnosed with retrograde ejaculation, ask your doctor about having your blood sugar tested.

An untreated infection of the reproductive system or urinary tract can also cause infertility in men. For example, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can lead to reduced sperm motility. Repeated infections can cause scarring, which can block the passage of semen.

Some sexually transmitted infections have no symptoms other than infertility. This is why it's important to be tested regularly.

Other medical conditions that can lead to infertility are:

  • Anemia
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Thyroid disease

Like diabetes, these conditions can sometimes be missed and go undiagnosed, especially if a person has few or no symptoms. It's a good idea to schedule a check-up with your doctor if you are ready to start trying to conceive.

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Article Sources
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