If you make sperm, or have a partner who does, and are trying to create a baby, this blog is for you.
Often overlooked in light of a “normal” semen analysis is the possible role that sperm quality could be playing in a couple struggling with infertility. In fact, in 40% of couples having trouble conceiving, it’s a strictly male factor problem. In 20% of cases, it’s a mixed male/female problem. Which means that at least half of the time, the quality of the sperm is impacting your ability (or inability) to create a healthy baby.
The most common response I get when I ask a couple if the male partner is doing anything to improve his sperm quality is – ‘oh no, he’s fine,’ because he passed his semen analysis. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever looked at a semen analysis, you’d know that it can certainly tell you if you have sperm, but it’s not a great test for their quality [if you don’t already know about the pitfalls of a semen analysis, read my blog on that here].
Male fertility is declining at an alarming rate – and it’s most likely because sperm cells are particularly sensitive and vulnerable to changes in their cellular environment. Subtle changes in nutrient status, toxin exposure, temperature, smoking, and alcohol intake significantly affect the production and maturation of these sensitive cells. A French study found that between 1989 and 2005, average sperm counts fell by a third in a study of 26,000 men (the biggest study on sperm quality to date). This decline isn’t just interesting, it’s scary.
Sperm are 50% responsible for conception, the health of the pregnancy, and the health of your future baby. In fact, a father’s age and resulting sperm quality has a strong influence on the outcomes of an IVF cycle. In a very recent analysis, a group of couples with a male partner over the age of 41 (called the advanced paternal age group = APA) had very similar (nearly indistinguishable) semen analysis results as younger men (<41). However, the degree of DNA damage assessed by DNA fragmentation tests was significantly higher in the APA group than in the younger men (higher DNA fragmentation, chromatin decondensation and sperm aneuploidy rates). They also found significantly more cancelled embryo transfers (29% vs 10%), lower clinical pregnancy rate (17% vs 32%) and a higher miscarriage rate (60% vs 42%) in the APA group when compared to the couples with a younger male partner.
If you manufacture sperm, regardless of what it says on your semen analysis, you should be actively interested in making changes that impact your sperm quality to affect your child’s future health.
One Daily Habit – Supplement With Antioxidants
While diet, lifestyle, emotional, hormonal, and nutritional factors all play a role, fueling your body with what it needs to both manufacture great quality sperm cells, and protect them from damage, is one of the most important. Subfertile men have been shown to have lower levels of antioxidative activity than fertile men, and supplementation with antioxidants has been shown to improve sperm motility and pregnancy rates (both for spontaneous pregnancies and through ART).
Semen, the fluid that nourishes sperm cells, contains trace amounts of every single nutrient in the human body – and higher concentrations of common nutrients that humans are deficient in (including potassium and magnesium). Vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and antioxidants all play a role in the formation of sperm.
For their protection? Antioxidants are key. Sperm are incredibly small cells, and as such are very vulnerable to both nutritional deficiencies and toxicity – air pollution, medications, recreational drugs, pesticides, and environmental chemicals can be especially damaging to the DNA in sperm
That sound complicated?
It’s really not. Avoid toxins, stop smoking, ask your doctor if your medications could be impacting your sperm. And then read this twice:
To support the production of really fantastic quality sperm, my first recommendation to every male partner who is TTC is this = take antioxidants, no matter what your semen analysis says.
Now, it’s even easier for men to get the full complement of nutrients that are required for healthy sperm – we carry a Male Fertility Kit at Acubalance that conveniently packages everything you need for sperm in one daily packet. Take your one packet a day, and rest assured that the nutrients you need to manufacture good sperm are getting into your system.
Remember – it takes between 72-116 days to manufacture new sperm. So the 100 days prior to conception is the optimal window to be taking supplements that influence sperm (and egg) quality. Ask more about the male fertility kit at your next appointment – incorporate this One Daily Habit for the health of your sperm, and the future health of your child.