Written by: Dr. Brian Levine, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist and founding partner/practice director of CCRM Fertility of New York
When it comes to fertility, much of the conversation is still focused on women. But men are an important part of the fertility equation, with 50 percent of cases of infertility linked to the male partner. Many people realize that the quantity and quality of sperm can significantly impact the chance of conceiving a baby, but what they may not know is that these factors can fluctuate depending on a man’s health and lifestyle.
If you’re trying to have a baby, it’s time to take note of these four common habits that can have a direct impact on male fertility.
It’s no secret that smoking is detrimental to your health. But did you know that smoking cigarettes can negatively impact your fertility? Research published in a 2016 BJU International article found that smokers’ sperm had irreparable DNA damage, limiting the chance of normal fertilization and a healthy pregnancy.
That glass of red wine with dinner every night could be harming your fertility. A BMJ Open article found that as little as five drinks (units) of alcohol every week could reduce sperm quality. The study also found that sperm quality worsened with the level of alcohol consumed.
Obesity can cause an array of health problems, including male infertility. Obese men, with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, were shown in a Human Reproduction article to be three-times more likely to have reduced semen parameters than men that are in the normal BMI range (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9). A separate study in Fertility and Sterility found that overweight men have increased amounts of DNA damage in their sperm, which can also negatively impact fertility.
When men are overweight, they may turn to exercise, but the wrong exercise or too much exercise can be associated with reduced sperm quantity and quality. Numerous studies have been published demonstrating that increased scrotal temperatures – due to tight athletic compression shorts, long bicycle rides, hot tubs, or simply training at higher intensities – can be associated with sperm health issues. According to a study published in Reproduction, moderate cardio activities are the best types of exercises for sperm health.
It’s not too late to improve your sperm health! If you’re trying to get pregnant, simple lifestyle modifications can make a significant difference. Sperm take about 74 days to mature, which means that men who do make lifestyle changes only need to wait about three months before seeing improvements in sperm quality–increasing your chances of reproductive success.