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Advice for your fertility journey from those who've been there

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.

Shaun

A Dad to twins thanks to using donor sperm, Shaun shares his inspiring story through his @knackered_knackers Instagram account. 

Shaun’s Advice…

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.

 

Ian

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. 

Ian’s advice… 

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

Kevin

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. 

Kevin’s Advice…

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

Joey

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. 

Joey’s Advice…

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 

Mike

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. 

Mike’s advice… 

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

Emil Andersen

Emil Andersen is ExSeed Health’s Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder. 

Emil’s Advice…

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

Ciaran Hannington - red

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.

Ciaran’s Advice:

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.

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.