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It can be an awkward conversation to have, but here’s what we know for sure. Male sperm is 50% of the equation. Period! (or no period is what we are hoping for – pun intended!).
The information below, outlines important information for you and your man to know. It can be difficult to navigate the necessary changes, so seeing a naturopath for support may just be the trick.
Regardless of HOW he gets his sperm into tip top shape, you may be faced with protests such as “We have been having children for thousands of years without “preconception care”, I think we’ll be fine” or “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine”. However, it might be worth pointing out that our planet now has more toxins, xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen) and plastics in our environment than ever before and this is seen in sperm rates dropping across the world. Getting his sperm in the best possible health, is an important step in falling pregnant and having a healthy child.
Lead by example
At the end of the day, he will take on board the information you are providing or he won’t. If he decides not to take it onboard, lead by example. Make the healthy choices for you. Some of these things he will benefit from by default (ie. If you buy organic food, he will eat it) and some he won’t, but at the end of the day, he is 50% of the equation and you still need to respect what he feels is right. It can be a tricky time to navigate in a relationship when your body is saying “it’s time for a baby”.
Life cycle of a sperm
The life cycle of a sperm takes 120 days from immature sperm to fully motile sperm. So if your sperm was exposed to toxins that can come from the environment, pesticides, alcohol, cigarettes, chemicals, recreational drugs, and illness last month, then this can have an impact on the health and quality of the sperm. This can then impact conception, and in some cases may even cause early miscarriage. Luckily natural fertility and preconception care can help repair oxidative stress and set down the foundations for a healthy pregnancy, birth and beyond.
The Influence of stress on male fertility – “But I don’t do stress wifey”
I know I harp on about stress and cortisol levels playing havoc on your girlie hormones, and that daily stress reduction techniques help your chances of conceiving, however for men you’re all good, right? Ah nope, that’s not true at all. In fact there seems to be more evidence of stress impacting male fertility and sperm health. For example, Stress results in glucocorticoid (yes cortisol!) release from the adrenals. This acts to suppress GnRH gonadotropin releasing hormone and GnIH gonadotropin inhibitory hormone which both lowers production of sex hormones. This also shunts the whole reproductive system. (Kirby ED et al 2009)
What is your man’s Thyroid Health like?
Just like females, men can have an under or overactive thyroid which can contribute to a decline in male fertility success. Thyroid hormones are involved in testicular function. T3 stimulates Leydig cells which produce testosterone. Stress and liver function can also have a negative effect on rT3 (reverse T3) which may be missed on a general thyroid test.
Keep your package cool!
It is important to keep his testicles 2 degrees lower than the rest of his body. This includes no hot baths, hot showers, or tight underpants. Sperm can be prone to damage due to limited capacity to repair their DNA.
Put the fire out! Lower aromatase levels
Inflammation can hinder male hormones that are required for sperm health and may reduce fertility in males. Chronic inflammation in the form of soft tissue injuries, past illness, obesity, immune infection, trauma, STD’s, environmental toxins and stress can elevate aromatase activity. We need to reduce levels of aromatase in men because it raises oestrogen (female hormone) and lowers testosterone. If men don’t have enough testosterone then libido and sperm health are affected.
My top 5 tips for male fertility are:
1. Withania – A balancing herb ideal for males to reduce stress levels, anxiety, regulates weight. Studies have shown Withania to improve sperm concentration and motility in healthy men with low sperm count. (Consult your naturopath before use)
2. Consume a diet based of organic or grass fed diet protein and healthy fats - beef, chicken, small fish, sardines, anchovies and liver. Green and purple vegetables and fruits to obtain vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants required for healthy sperm.
3. Zinc rich foods – help testosterone production and thyroid function– oysters, pumpkin seeds, grass fed beef.
4. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and ideally stop cigarettes as they are can have an adverse effect on sperm.
5. Focus on getting 8 hours sleep a night, massage, and any relaxation tools to slow down the sympathetic nervous system and gain control on the right balance of male hormones.
So there you are, fertility and preconception care is not just for females, it is equally as important to make healthy babies and children from your man also.
Alysia Raftery has a special interest in natural fertility and preconception care for couples. Each individual is unique, so it is important to find out what she can do for you, in a naturopath consultation to help you on your road to a happy and empowered fertility journey.
1. de Mouson J et al. (1996) Declining sperm count. Sperm quality has declined among men born in France since 1950 BMJ. 1996 Jul 6; 313(7048): 43–45.
2. Ahmad M et al.(2010) Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertil Steril. Epub
3. Kirby ED, et al. (2009) Stress increases putative gonadotropin inhibitory hormone and decreases luteinizing hormone in male rats. Proc Natl Acad Sci