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It takes two to tango: How male lifestyle impact fertility

9 February 2021

When we are trying to conceive, everything seems to be focused on women's health, for example, what to eat, weight control, exercise, to name just a few... However, it takes two to make a baby, so your partner's lifestyle could have a positive or negative impact on your chances.

Having an abnormal semen analysis does not always mean your chances of conceiving are lower, as there is no strict correlation. Also, if one of the parameters in the semen analysis is below the normal range, it could be compensated by other parameters. If you are still concerned about the results, speak to your doctor.

But how does our partner's lifestyle impact his semen analysis, and what should he be doing at this stage? Let's find out in this article.

  1. Smoking or using recreational drugs.

Smoking nicotine is a common lifestyle choice in our society, around 35% of men of reproductive age smoke. And you read everywhere “quit smoking if you are TTC”. This is because, just like with eggs, smoking harms semen quality. It affects their concentration and morphology, and this does not only happen to heavy smokers, semen gets affected even in those who smoke very little, so there is no “safe level”. In addition, being a smoker also affects your chances of conceiving if you undergo assisted reproductive treatments, impacting directly on pregnancy rates. That is why many clinics have a strict no smoking policy.

With respect to recreational drugs, marijuana- a popular one- suppresses male fertility in the brain, by reducing hormones levels. Cocaine, besides affecting sperm concentration, motility and morphology, also decreases libido and its users complain of erectile and ejaculatory dysfunction. 

  1. Caffeine

Who doesn’t need a coffee or tea to wake up? But drinking them in excess (actually excess is more than 2 cups per day) could be bad for male fertility. There are studies which link coffee consumption in men to miscarriage and poorer IVF outcomes. Men who drink more than 2 cups per day, have an increased risk of miscarriage and also have lower IVF success rates. If you and your partner are trying to conceive, ideally, limit your caffeine consumption (coffee, tea or soft drinks) to one cup a day or prefer decaf products. 

  1. Alcohol

Like smoking, drinking alcohol can impact semen analysis parameters, not only in sperm quantity but also in quality. Men who drink too much alcohol can lose interest in sex, and their testosterone levels can drop. Thankfully, this can be managed by cutting down or avoiding alcohol. Does alcohol also affect assisted reproductive treatment outcomes? Unfortunately, this remains unclear. If your partner drinks alcohol, it is better if he does so in moderation.

  1. Body weight

Having a high Body mass index (BMI) impacts on men's ability to produce sperm, due to the overproduction of oestrogen and an imbalance with testosterone, which, as a consequence, decreases sperm count and motility. A Norwegian study which analysed around 20,000 patients found that men with BMI were 50% less likely to conceive in one year. Having a BMI of less than 20 might also be a problem when TTC.

Keeping a healthy lifestyle by watching your diet and doing regular exercise can make a difference, not only in your chances of conceiving but also in your mood and the support you give as a partner.

  1. Age

We’ve always been told that men are fertile their whole life. While it is true that men produce sperm for many years, their quality gets affected by age. After 40, it not only takes longer to conceive but also the risk of miscarriage rises. In addition, some studies have shown that men who become dads over 40 have an increased risk of having children with autism or another mental health condition, such as schizophrenia. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about age, so the earlier, the better.

  1. Anabolic steroids

Some men consume steroids to build muscle mass, what they don´t know is that by doing this, they are damaging their fertility. Steroids interfere with the hormones involved in sperm production; therefore, the abuse of these substances reduce testicular volume and sperm changes. This can be reversed, but it can take many months.

So, what should we be doing to increase our chances of conceiving?

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: normal BMI (between 20-25) and a diet rich in antioxidants
  • Quit smoking (even if you are a passive smoker), stop using recreational drugs and avoid the use of anabolic steroids.
  • Cut down on alcohol and your caffeine intake
  • Speak to your doctor about supplements which might be useful
  • Support each other with these lifestyle changes – remember it takes two to tango!

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