Dear Potential Father: Please Read

31 Oct, 2012

father1If you could do something very simple to conceive a baby would you do it?

Imagine a car. Let’s say it’s not running well and you spend a lot of time and a lot of money fixing the engine. You spend months doing it up with new parts and spend a lot of money making sure the parts are of the best quality. Still, after months of ‘fixing’, it isn’t right. It splutters and conks out. You scratch your head in confusion and become frustrated and disappointed. And then someone points out that the car needs petrol to run on instead of the diesel you have been filling it with. The engine has been fine the whole time – all it took was just switching fuel.

The health of the egg and the sperm are of absolute importance when conceiving a baby and ensuring the baby makes it to full term. A lot of emphasis is put on getting the engine to run well (a woman’s physiology), and yet not many people bother to check if the fuel is right (a man’s sperm quality). Sometimes it is presumed by men that it is the female’s health that is the most important – that it’s up to her to produce healthy eggs and to carry a full term pregnancy. However, the quality of the sperm is not only of equal importance, but it is much easier to test for and treat than any female problems.

Some men presume that if they have already produced a child then their sperm must be good. Some believe that even if the mother has a miscarriage, it is nothing to do with them. This is NOT the case as miscarriages can also be due to poor sperm quality and there is research to support this.

There are many aspects that can affect the sperm quality and many of them are lifestyle related. This includes mineral deficiencies, stress, and internal toxicity, including heavy metal exposure, such as lead and cadmium.

If you are looking to fall pregnant, getting your sperm tested is essential, as it is the easiest and quickest way to eliminate any possible problems. It only takes one set of testing to know if the sperm is healthy. If it’s healthy, then you at least know where the problem lies, and if it’s not, there are lots of easy ways to boost your sperm quality and/or quantity. Sperm take 90 days to form, so you can achieve profound sperm changes in a relatively short amount of time. Women are born with their entire egg supply. Men on the other hand renew their sperm and it takes up to 90 days for healthy sperm to be developed. Besides, if it turns out that it is the sperm that needs a boost, you have just spared yourself – and your partner – months of emotional grief with recurrent miscarriages, or no conception at all, with no end in sight. It can be a very challenging time for couples and anything to lessen the emotional damage should be seriously considered. It’s important to get sperm checked at reputable laboratories, and we are happy to give referrals if required.

In the meantime, here are six basic tips to help improve sperm quality.

1. Stop smoking: Both cigarettes and marijuana are associated with a low sperm count, and limited sperm mobility (meaning they can’t swim very well!)
2. Whenever possible, walk away from toxins: Men working in the construction industry, in large factories, in agriculture or with paint are in contact with poisonous or environmental toxins such as pesticides, insecticides, lead, radiation or heavy metals, serious risk of suffering infertility.

3. Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins: A low level of zinc or vitamin C can cause abnormal formation of sperm.

4. Practice exercise restraint: Physical activity may indirectly reduce the excessive number of spermatozoa to lower the testosterone level. Exercise is important, but don’t overdo it.

5. Pay attention to your weight: Overweight men or those who do not weigh enough for their body size are more likely to have infertility problems. Those who are overweight may experience hormonal disorders and those who are too thin have a lower number of spermatozoa.

6. Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol decreases the production of normal, healthy sperm. One particular study, performed on male rats, suggested that rats that were given a dose of alcohol high enough to become intoxicated within 24 hours prior to mating had as much of a 50% less conception rate.  However, studies on human beings have even shown that intoxication in particular will, at least temporarily, reduce sperm count.  In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that long-term use of alcohol will lead to more permanent damage, including a permanent reduction in sperm count.