Female fertility is often in the news, and we know that a women’s age and health can affect her ability to become pregnant. We don’t see so much discussion of male fertility but if you’re trying to have a baby, you need to be aware of the factors that can temporarily or permanently reduce your fertility.
First things first, when we talk male fertility, we’re chatting semen, the liquid that men ejaculate, that contains sperm. For the best chances of conceiving, you need an adequate amount of good quality sperm. When we talk about sperm quality, this means the amount of sperm contained with the semen, and the motility, or ability to move, of the sperm, which impacts the ability of the sperm to reach and fertilise the egg. Issues with sperm transport can also affect fertility, like blockages between the testes and the penis.
Some factors to pay attention to when you’re planning to conceive are:
The impact of the mother’s age on fertility gets a lot of airtime, but the importance of the age of the father is often overlooked. While we know that women are born with a full complement of eggs, and men continue to produce sperm throughout their life, we now know that the quality of this sperm is negatively affected by age.
Like older mothers, older fathers also carry a higher risk of miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage is twice as high for women whose male partner is aged over 45 than for those whose partners are under 25. So, as with women, if you know that you and your partner want to have children, it’s better to start trying sooner, rather than later if you can.
Raising your body’s temperature, especially around the testicles, can lead to a reduction in sperm production. While this is generally only a temporary affect, if you’re trying for a baby it’s best to do what you can to keep temperatures consistent. This means avoiding things like spa pools, hot baths, saunas and keeping electronics that can heat up, like laptops, off your lap.
Staying active is a positive for your health in general and helps to maintain a healthy weight. But being hit or kicked in your testes or serious time on a bike can affect your fertility. When you’re taking part in sport, it’s important to try and protect your testicles as much as you can- whether that means wearing a cup, investing in padded cycle shorts or opting for a non-contact version.
Smoking, alcohol and drugs
Let’s face it, we all know smoking and drinking alcohol is bad for your health. But did you know it can also have a negative impact on your fertility? According to Your Fertility smoking can affect the DNA contained in sperm, and alcohol can cause impotence, reduce libido and affect sperm quality.
Taking recreational or performance enhancing drugs is never a good idea, and it can be particularly damaging for your fertility. If you have been taking them, steer clear well before you plan to start trying to conceive a baby — and if this feels like it might be a difficult thing to do, it’s time to see your GP.
Healthy eating and regular exercise is important for general wellbeing, but especially necessary when you’re trying to conceive. Your weight is an important factor- being significantly overweight can reduce fertility.
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If you need some guidance to start to bring yourself into a healthy weight range, your GP is the best person to speak to. Make sure you consult them before making any major lifestyle changes, as they will be able to support your health during this process, and will also be able to check for any underlying medical condition which could be hindering your progress.
Visit Your pregnancy journey for more on planning for pregnancy.