Optimizing Male Fertility
In the world of fertility treatment, there seem to be a plethora of tips and treatments for remedying female fertility, but not as many guidelines for improving male fertility. This can leave male partners feeling uninvolved in the family building process, and uniformed as to how they can optimize their health.
The truth is that there are ways that men can take an active role in the treatment process — through nutritional modification, weight loss when indicated, and healthy exercising, men can optimize their fertility.
Researchers at the University of Cordoba encourage moderate physical activity to regulate the process of sperm production. Their findings published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, show improved hormone levels and sperm production in physically active men compared to men who are less active. Semen analyses showed better morphology, count, and motility percentages among other healthier numbers.
Scientific data has now determined that obesity is a significant global epidemic, and well-established as having a negative impact on female fertility. Obesity is now a contributor to poor sperm quantity and quality, as well. “Male obesity interferes with the male hormonal milieu and negatively impacts fertility. The important message is that this is modifiable, and weight loss combined with exercise and nutritional support can improve one’s fertility potential,” says Dr. Natan Bar-Chama of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York (RMA of NY).
A semen analysis looks at several factors for determining normal fertility. The guidelines, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010, analyze semen based on the following criteria:
- Concentration – 15 million per ml or 39 million in the entire sample.
- Volume – 1.5ml on average.
- Motility – At least 32% of progressively motile sperm.
- Viability – Greater than 58% living sperm per sample.
- Morphology – At least 4% normal shaped sperm.
- Liquefaction – Semen stays in liquid form for 60 minutes after ejaculation.
- Viscosity – Too thick of a sample could indicate a problem with the prostate.
- Color – Opalescent, slightly yellow color.
- pH level – above 7.1 *Lower values might indicate azoospermia, or no level of measurable sperm in the semen.
- Leukocytes – Less than 1 million per ml of sample. Greater number could indicate infection.
- Antisperm antibodies – Less than 50%; anything greater suggests an immune disorder.
What most men (and women) may not realize about a semen analysis report is that it is just a snapshot of the overall picture. There is so much more to be said about sperm quality and men’s health in general. An abnormal semen analysis is a clue that something needs to change, be it diet, bad habits, or a correctable medical condition like a scrotal varicocele.
What are the Best Ways for Men to Promote Health and Fertility?
Larry Lipshultz, M.D., of the Scott Department of Urology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, encourages men concerned about their fertility to get out and exercise. “Not only do they feel better,” he advises, “they lose fat and decrease the amount of testosterone converting to estrogen.” By regulating these hormones and decreasing fat storage, men not only improve their fertility, but cardiovascular health as well.
Weight resistance or cardiovascular exercises are most recommended for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and boosting fertility. Exercises like competitive cycling and triathlons should be practiced in moderation to avoid prostate irritation, lower testosterone production, and physical stress on the body.
More obvious forms of protecting fertility are important too, like wearing an athletic cup during high contact sport, avoiding sauna or upgrading to a better-quality bicycle seat, that keeps anatomy and fertility in mind.
Healthy diet, minimal alcohol consumption, and smoking cessation are also recommended. Foods high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar shouldn’t make up the bulk of your daily intake, though obsessing and depriving yourself of indulgences will only cause your diet to crash hard. “Really, no food is bad or good for you, it should be consumed in moderation,” says Dr. Lipshultz.
A healthy lifestyle, weight loss when indicated, combined with cardiovascular exercise and nutritional support are important methods to engage the male partner in optimizing his fertility and achieving parenthood.
These lifestyle changes will not happen overnight and do require some commitment. However, they are small changes to be introduced slowly. Things like taking a walk after a meal and not eating between meals will help you navigate the road to overall fitness and improved fertility.
Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, Director of the Center of Male Reproductive Health at RMA of New York, is a board-certiﬁed Urologist and Male Infertility Specialist. Following his urology residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he was awarded the New York Academy of Medicine F.C. Valentine Fellowship and sub-specialized in Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. For the last 20 years, Dr. Bar-Chama has been the Director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery and is on faculty in both the Departments of Urology and Obstetrics/Gynecology and Reproductive Science at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.