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5 Relationship Tips From Guys On A Fertility Journey

Valentine’s Day is a time to put your relationship front and centre – but if you’re having a tough fertility journey, that might be easier said than done. No one knows the challenges that come with fertility issues better than our community, so we’ve rounded up the best relationship advice from five guys who know exactly what you’re going through.

 

Ciaran Hannington – Fertility Health & Fitness Coach

One of the biggest challenges of any fertility journey is dealing with the unknown. It’s incredibly difficult to deal with any situation you have little to no control over. All fertility journeys are challenging and some are more difficult than others. I distinctly remember the emotional stress and heartache each failed cycle had on me and my wife. These emotions and stress put extreme pressure on our relationship, which was partly our own fault. Until you experience the ‘fertility rollercoaster’, you don’t know how you will feel, you don’t know what will happen and you don’t know how your relationship will cope.

My advice to couples facing the challenges of a fertility journey is to talk and be honest with each other, don’t be afraid to say you are struggling – and even if your partner doesn’t say it, look out for the signs that they might be too.
Make time for each other, and do the things you used to do before the worries of fertility came along. Go out for dinner, book a spontaneous trip away or whatever else that might make you smile. One of the biggest things I learnt was that it’s okay not to know what to do all the time, it’s ok to not know what to say. Sometimes a simple hug is all it takes to say ‘I’m here.’

Russell Davies – Fertility Mindset Coach

During our fertility journey, my wife said she felt lonely. Our biggest challenge was that I lived in my head. She knew what I thought but not how I felt about things. I was very disconnected from my feelings. I also thought I had to be the strong one for her, but it was not what she wanted. Women want to feel emotionally connected to their men, and that’s what was lacking for us at that time.

My advice would be for men facing a tough fertility journey is to learn to get comfortable with emotions. Learning to express how they feel, not what they think, and also to hold space for their partner’s emotion without trying to fix it or taking it personally – whilst keeping your heart open. Emotional understanding is the glue in a relationship. It helps a couple feel united and a team, whatever is going on in life. A book I often recommend is The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida.

Alex – Pursuing Fatherhood

Grieving infertility as a couple is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. It feels like an impossible task to overcome your own pain while also supporting your partner through theirs. I also felt a massive sense of guilt, seeing my wife going through such heartache, and feeling like it was my fault.
Communication is key to working through infertility grief. Just expressing the emotions of it all, and being able to sort through them together. I process emotions more internally, but opening up with a therapist and each other really helped us to connect and feel more peace about our situation. We finally started to believe that, even if we were never able to become parents, we would still be ok because we had each other.

Shaun Greenaway – Knackered Knackers

Lack of communication was our biggest problem during our fertility journey. I went inside myself, I wasn’t talking and I was struggling with who I was as a man and even though my wife was there too. I was pushing her away, going insular and that lack of communication is not good for any relationship.
My advice to anyone going through the same thing is to communicate. Don’t shut your other half out, as they are going through it with you and are in just as much pain as you are – regardless of who is dealing with infertility itself. When we started to communicate properly and started to deal with it as a team, that’s what started to shortcut our road to healing.
Also remember to still do the things you love together, don’t let infertility dictate your life. Fill your relationship cup because you need that mental break from it and it brings you closer together. Be that partnership and try to live your life to the full. As hard as it may seem – there are still smiles, laughter and love to be had.

Ian Stones – Director of TestHim

When I support couples through their fertility journey, some of the biggest relationship challenges I see are around pressure, time and communication. There are external pressures, work pressures, time pressures as well as bedroom and relationship pressures. Often I see that the woman typically takes on a lot of the research to ensure she’s doing all she can. On the other side, the man ends up worrying about his partner and the finances of treatment, as well as feeling the need to stay strong, which can mean he finds it hard to share his feelings.
Communication is key to overcoming these challenges. Make sure you talk to each other – and that’s especially important if you’re a man. Trying to stay strong and avoid talking about your emotions just makes it harder for your partner. Making a baby is a joint venture so try to research and share things together – don’t leave it all up to one person,
It’s also important to make sure you find time for each other that isn’t about fertility. Have some date nights, find a hobby you can enjoy together but equally find something you can each do to let off steam. If you’re really struggling, couples counselling or individual counselling can be an absolute godsend.

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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.