Super sperm health
What can be done to improve the health of the sperm?
So a fun fact is that most men produce millions of new sperm every day. Another interesting fact it is that it takes these new sperm about 2 ½ to 3 months to fully mature. When sperm are initially formed within the testicles, they actually lack the ability to swim forward or fertilize an egg until they make their way through the reproductive tract. So if you make a lifestyle change eg. quitting smoking – it takes about 2 ½ to 3 months for those healthier sperm to appear in the ejaculate. So if you are thinking about trying to conceive – three months beforehand is a great time to make those changes. Or if you are trying now – make the change now!
- Take supplements to support sperm health – Recent studies have shown that increasing antioxidant intake can help with sperm health (see below for more detail). We recommend taking Proxceed which has been proven to improve sperm health in clinical trials – and for three months before conception.
- Reduce alcohol intake – Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm. The guidelines are to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which should be spread evenly over three days or more.
- Quit smoking -as smoking can reduce fertility.
- Eat well – a healthy, balanced diet and healthy weight is essential for keeping your sperm in good condition. Your diet should include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day; carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and pasta; and lean meat, fish and pulses for protein.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight (having a body mass index above 25) may affect the quality and quantity of your sperm. If you’re overweight and trying to conceive, you should try to lose weight by combining healthy eating with regular exercise.
- Take care of emotional health – Stress can affect relationships (including your sex life which might mean it takes longer to conceive) . Severe stress may also limit sperm production. So when trying to conceive, learning strategies to improve emotional health are important.
- Keep testicles cool – Your testicles are outside your body because, to produce the best quality sperm, they need to be kept slightly cooler than the rest of you. The ideal temperature for sperm production is around 34.5C, which is slightly below body temperature (around 37C). So keeping your testicles cool may help. For example, if your job involves working in a hot environment, take regular breaks outside. If you sit still for long periods, get up and move around regularly.
Why are antioxidants so important?
In couples where the cause of subfertility is a male factor (such as low sperm count), 30% to 80% of cases are thought to be due to the damaging effects of oxidative stress on sperm. In theory, this is when molecules containing reactive oxygen (called reactive oxygen species) overcome the semen’s “natural antioxidant defences” to cause cell damage. Increased levels of these molecules are thought to be due to several factors including pesticides, pollution, alcohol, smoking and poor diet.
A recent study found that antioxidants can reduce oxidative damage. They found that couples where the men took oral antioxidants had a significant increase in live birth rate compared with couples where the men took control pills. They also found that for couples where men took antioxidants, they had a significant increase in pregnancy rate.
Proxeed is a supplement that has been validated in clinical trials to support sperm health, and contains antioxidants.
What about if I’m using donor sperm?
If you use a donor through a licensed UK fertility clinic there are very few risks. The clinic will test the sperm for safety and quality. Your donor’s family history will be checked to make sure they don’t have any serious genetic diseases that could be passed onto any children you conceive.
They’ll also be checked for infections including HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and gonorrhoea. Semen analysis can help to establish whether sperm is of sufficiently high quality to use in artificial insemination. If you’re using a donation from someone you know, but are still having treatment at a clinic, they’ll go through all the same checks.