This week is International Men’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate the shared male experience and support each other through struggles that are often considered taboo – like fertility.
There is a growing community of men who – through expertise or personal experience – want to help other men feel more confident on their fertility journey. Here we’ve rounded up advice from the best male fertility experts and inspiring community leaders who want to encourage and support you on your road to fatherhood.
A Dad to twins thanks to using donor sperm, Shaun shares his inspiring story through his @knackered_knackers Instagram account.
Experiencing infertility is tough for anyone, but men in particular also face additional shame – which usually comes as a result of societal expectations of what a man is supposed to be, and supposed to provide.
But remember, it isn’t your fault. You didn’t ask for this to be the hand you were dealt. It’s important to talk about it, and not to bottle up your emotions. Talk to your partner. Talk to a stranger. Talk to yourself (never underestimate the power of positive self talk). The road can be a long and tough one, so take it step by step. You’ve got this.
One of the UK’s leading fertility specialists, Ian Stones helps men adapt their lifestyle to improve their sperm health and hosts monthly meet ups on behalf of Fertility Network UK for men struggling with infertility.
Diet and lifestyle are well worth working on – I would always say to any guy struggling to conceive that this is always the easiest and first thing they should work on. Sperm are very easily influenced by lifestyle and diet so it can be an easy win if there aren’t other factors going on. However, if you don’t see improvements within 3 months of cleaning up your diet then it’s probably time to get some further investigations.
If you’re struggling (and many men do), you’re definitely not alone. Male factor fertility issues account for pretty much half of all fertility issues so I can guarantee you’re not alone or the first to be going through it. However it can feel like that. Check out the Himfertility support group run by Fertility Network UK. I promise that if you speak up you’ll feel so much better.
Kevin has azoospermia and is on the road to becoming a father through assisted fertility treatments. He shares his experience through his Instagram page @them_ancave – where he has important conversations around infertility and mental health.
This fertility journey we are on is not easy – and many aren’t. If you are struggling with the mental strain of trying to get pregnant, the first thing you should do is confide in someone. If not your partner, a friend or family. It will eat you up if you don’t! A problem shared is a problem halved.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people you know closely, think about setting up an Instagram account, anonymously if you have to. Follow other people who are on a similar journey as yourself, as you will find a lot of comfort from it. Social media can also be a great resource for education – and knowledge is power when it comes to your fertility.
Joey is a Fertility Nutritionist & Behaviour Change Specialist based in California. He works with people of all genders to help them adopt healthy and sustainable habits that will improve their chances of conceiving.
When it comes to fertility nutrition, my best advice is to eat nutrient dense whole foods – it’s the best way to produce and protect healthy sperm . The easiest way to be sure you’re getting whole foods is to ask – does this look like it did when it left the farm?
Processed food, regardless of the “gluten free”, or “low cholesterol”, or “high protein” claim emblazoned on the container, is still just processed, packaged food – and they can cause a host of issues for our fertility. If it has a TV commercial, stop eating it, period.
Mike found out he had sub optimal motility when he took an ExSeed at-home sperm test. He is now using their lifestyle advice to improve his sperm health ahead of trying to conceive next year.
My advice for any men wanting to become fathers someday, is to get your head around fertility earlier than you think. Most of us just assume that we’ll be able to get our partner’s pregnant at the drop of a hat (or our pants) but that’s not always the case.
ExSeed opened my eyes up to potential issues with my own fertility, but also the lifestyle changes that could make a huge difference. I’m about 9 months away from trying for a baby, so I’m really grateful I have this time to make improvements. So many guys only start to investigate their sperm health when they are already struggling – and that must be awful. I now totally see the benefits of taking a proactive approach – and I hope other guys can too.
Emil Andersen is ExSeed Health’s Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder.
A fertility journey is full of so many ups and downs – and I think it’s important that men play an active role at every stage. Of course that can mean getting educated about their fertility, proactively addressing lifestyle factors and making healthy choices that can protect their sperm health. But it also means actively talking about things that don’t go right.
When my partner and I were trying to conceive we went through a miscarriage. This is more common that people realise and many men are affected emotionally by pregnancy loss. We need to open up the conversation and break taboos around infertility and miscarriage so men know they aren’t alone.
Ciaran did not have an easy route to fatherhood, but he found exercise helped not only to improve his sperm health but also his mental wellbeing. He’s now on a mission to help other guys get fit on their fertility journey.
Male infertility difficulties are on the rise, yet acceptance of it in society continues to be questionable. Many men struggle to come to terms with infertility which can lead to a breakdown in both their physical and mental health. A well-structured exercise program can not only improve general physical health, it can assist in the development of healthy sperm, whilst allowing a man to take control of his own mental health.
Research suggests that oxidative stress can have a catastrophic impact on the development of cells within the body and that is no different in relation to sperm. Adjustments to life-style including increased or adaptations to exercise and activity levels can have a valuable impact on the development of sperm, especially during the three-month period approaching a fertility cycle. Accessing support for the development of a specialist training program that can enhance your fertility could be one of the hardest steps to take as a man, but the impact it could have on the health of your sperm could be invaluable.