For couples trying to conceive, Father's Day can bring mixed emotions. There may be disappointment that you are not able to celebrate this Father's Day, as well as excitement and anticipation about whether you will be able to celebrate fatherhood with a bundle in your arms next year.
Approximately 15 percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant, with 40 percent of infertility diagnoses due to male infertility.
The advice for women trying to conceive is well-known and easy to find. What about ways for men to optimize their fertility?
Here are eight tips and tricks to increase your chances of being a dad next Father's Day:
1. Drop those extra pounds.
Sperm production is at its best when you are a normal, healthy weight. Studies show that men who are overweight or obese have decreased sperm production. Carrying extra weight increases fat cells which produce estrogen, causing a hormonal imbalance that can disrupt normal sperm production. Don't reach for the quick fix either - weight loss supplements often affect sperm production.
2. Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and excessive caffeine.
Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine have been associated with decreased sperm function as toxins damage the sperm. For men trying to conceive, I recommend eliminating tobacco, consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and no more than six per week, and drinking less than 300 mg of caffeine per day. A typical cup of coffee has approximately 100mg of coffee, and a soda typically has about 50 mg.
3. Stay away from heat.
Avoid baths or saunas with very hot temperatures. Immersion in hot water increases the temperature in the scrotum leading to damaged sperm production. It's also best to avoid laptop computers and cell phones in the front pocket. Overexposure to hot temperatures can take approximately three months to recover healthy sperm production.
4. Skip the lubricants.
Even though they can make intercourse more enjoyable, most lubricants - including saliva, KY jelly, and olive oil - are toxic to sperm. If you do need to use something, the less toxic lubricants are "pre-seed", mineral oil, and canola oil, but they should be used sparingly.
5. Avoid testosterone or testosterone-like products.
Sometimes men I talk to don't even realize they are taking testosterone substances. These can be either doctor prescribed, recreational for body building, or even over the counter supplements. There are many supplements that are sold at nutrition stores that contain testosterone or testosterone-like products. These products send messages to the testicles that there is enough testosterone around so the brain can stop sending the signals to make sperm. One recent study found that almost 90 percent of men taking these supplements had no sperm. If you are taking one of these over the counter supplements, stop immediately. The damage done is often reversible, but can take three months or longer. If you are taking doctor prescribed testosterone, check with your doctor before discontinuing.
6. Avoid exposure to toxins.
I have a lot of patients who worked at the mill or railroad who were exposed to toxins and had abnormal sperm as a result. Sometimes this exposure is unavoidable depending on your work environment, but try to avoid toxins and chemicals where possible. Use BPA free plastics for food and water bottles, avoid paint fumes, and stay away from chemicals. Sperm are sensitive little guys!
7. Choose exercise that is sperm-friendly.
Rest assured, most exercise is sperm-friendly. Some activities such as hot yoga or bicycle riding can increase temperature in the scrotum, which can interfere with normal sperm production.
8. Have frequent intercourse, especially around the time of ovulation.
This can be challenging with the demands of everyday life. I recommend intercourse every one or two days around time of ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs 11-21 days after the first day of the menstrual period, but can vary. To help focus efforts, women can buy ovulation kits at the pharmacy. These kits measure urine levels of the hormone LH or Luteinizing hormone. This hormone rises about 12-36 hours before ovulation. I recommend having intercourse the day the kit turns positive as well as the following day.
When should you see a specialist?
After a year, 85 percent of young couples will have conceived. If the female partner is under 35, then you should see a fertility specialist after you have tried to conceive for one year. But if the female partner is 35 or older, seek a consultation if it has been longer than six months.
There can be reasons to seek consultation sooner, such as abnormal menstrual cycles or difficulty with erections or ejaculations. If you experience testicular pain, abnormal discharge from the penis, swelling in the scrotum, or small testicles, it is best to seek medical expertise immediately.
These measures should help supercharge sperm and help you in the goal of celebrating being a father next Father's Day. Good Luck and enjoy trying!
Dr. Allison K. Rodgers of Fertility Centers of Illinois is board certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Her personal experiences with both secondary infertility and pregnancy loss have given her a unique insight into reproductive medicine, and she is well known for her compassionate and individualized patient care. www.fcionline.com
Fertility Centers of Illinois is one of the leading fertility treatment practices in the United States, providing advanced reproductive endocrinology services in the Chicago area for more than 30 years. FCI physicians, embryologists and support staff are stringently chosen based on educational background, medical skills and their ability to collaborate. With a team of 11 nationally and internationally recognized reproductive physicians who treat thousands of patients each year, the practice has earned a reputation for overcoming hard-to-solve fertility issues. FCI is dedicated to medical and clinical excellence and continues to invest in the latest technologies and research. FCI offers a comprehensive range of fertility treatment options including intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, donor egg, gestational carrier, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, as well as extensive resources to address financial and emotional needs. Fostering a culture for continuous innovation has made FCI home to the annual Midwest Reproductive Symposium which attracts experts in the field of reproductive endocrinology from around the world. FCI has 10 offices conveniently located throughout the Chicagoland area (Buffalo Grove, Chicago/River North, Crystal Lake, Glenview, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Lindenhurst, Warrenville, Oakbrook Terrace, and Orland Park). FCI is a member of the Attain Fertility Network which provides discounted fertility treatment programs. For more information visit www.fcionline.com
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