November is men’s health awareness month.
If you are trying for a baby it’s important to be aware of the potential risks that hinder fertility among both men and women.
One-third of fertility issues are directly linked to men which is why Dr Tim Dineen, Head of Laboratory Services at Cork Fertility Centre, is urging for more awareness and conversation around the subject.
“Male infertility accounts for approximately 30% of couples we see at Cork Fertility Centre. However, due to the lack of conversation, men often think they are the only one experiencing fertility problems.” Dr. Dineen said.
The most common cause of male infertility is problems with sperm production but there are changes males can make to improve this.
A straightforward and non-invasive test called a semen analysis can carried out to assess fertility potential. The results give detailed information on sperm quantity and quality.
“In some instances, treatment is required and there are a number of options available. In other cases, simple lifestyle and diet changes can help to improve the quality of sperm.” Dr. Dineen explained.
Some everyday habits could be affecting a man’s fertility
Up to 13% of infertility cases may be attributed to smoking.
”Male smokers have fewer healthy-shaped sperm than non-smokers,” “In approximately one quarter of cases; smoking causes a decrease in sperm quality and smokers are more likely to take 12 months or longer to achieve a pregnancy.” Dr. Dineen said.
Heat may have an adverse effect on the production of sperm. Avoid over-exposure to hot tubs, jacuzzis, and saunas, which can temporarily decrease sperm production.
Holding a laptop on the lap can also affect sperm due to the heat coming from the device. Brief exposures to heat are ok, but be sure to get up and move around frequently.
Tightly fitting briefs and bicycle shorts can restrict the area and can raise your body temperature above the norm for sperm to survive.
Being underweight or overweight can also have a negative effect on semen health. Obese men are found to have lower levels of testosterone, lower sperm counts and motility. Dr Dineen advised: “The best thing you can do to achieve a healthy weight is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. It takes approximately 12 weeks for sperm to be produced, so any positive changes made now to lifestyle and diet will manifest in three months’ time.”
Lack of vitamins
Certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids can boost male fertility naturally. Omega 3 and Vitamin B9 – also known as folic acid – have been shown to improve sperm count, motility and morphology. Zinc improves sperm motility and is required to form the outer layer and tail of the sperm, while Vitamin E is thought to protect the sperm membrane from damage.
For those curious about their fertility or have recently started trying for a baby, self-referral fertility checks, such as My Fertility Check, can be booked online or by telephone or visit myfertilitycheck.ie.