When a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, the focus often turns to a woman's health. But men are equal partners in conception, they contribute approximately 40-50 per cent of all infertility cases, says Dr. Himanshu Singhal, Senior Fertility Specialist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bellandur and Whitefield, Bengaluru
While it is an opportunity to be at home and spend time with your partner, it is important that men also make some changes to lifestyle, especially their "diet" that can improve chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
It is important to understand that fertility related issues vary among populations and declines with age in both men and women. For women, the chance of conception decreases significantly after age 35, male fertility does not appear to be affected before approximately 50 years.
The Role your diet plays
Men need to know that lifestyle factors affecting fertility include diet, body weight, levels of exercise, stress and use of tobacco and drugs, says the doctor.
Lifestyle factors may affect sperm parameters, pregnancy and miscarriage rates.
Trans fat and "unhealthy diets" (those "rich in red and processed meats, potatoes, sweets, and sweetened beverages") should be completely avoided.
Include foods like eggs that are packed with vitamin B, which is important for fertility. They are rich in protein, which is great for your overall health and fitness.
Another good source can be walnuts which are loaded with good fats that can provide you with a healthy reproductive system. Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts can be beneficial in boosting your fertility. So, go and have them as a snack! Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Include more Lentils and beans in your diet. Both of these are an excellent source of protein, fibre and folate.
Limit or cut out processed meats.
Limit caffeine and alcohol. If you consume caffeine, limit yourself to one or two cups of coffee per day
Engage in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise
Obesity not only increases the risk of medical conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and kidney diseases, sleep aponea, depression but some studies have demonstrated its link to increased time to conception, reduced pregnancy rates and an increase in pregnancy loss in couples undergoing IVF.
The expert suggests some lifestyle changes:
Keep check on your weight and maintain normal BMI by eating healthy and regular moderate exercise.
Prevent infections by maintaining monogamous relationship
Keep things cool- by wearing loose fitting underwear, avoiding sauna, limiting exposure to warm objects
Eat a healthy diet like green vegetables, citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, cabbage, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains, fish, shellfish, seafood which will give you loads of antioxidants & other micronutrients.
Get enough sleep.
Do Semen analysis from any fertility centre where it is performed as per WHO 2010 criteria as semen analysis is the corner stone of infertility evaluation.
Your doctor may prescribe you supplements (eg. Vit C, vit E, Zinc, CoQ10 etc) which may increase the chances of pregnancy.
Semen freezing as a measure of fertility preservation to father children in future should be done if you are suffering from cancer as certain cancers and their treatments (radiotherapy & chemotherapy) can affect fertility.
Smoking is associated with low count and morphology. This also leads to increased number of abnormal sperms and their decreased ability to fertilize egg. As smoking damages genetic material in egg and sperm, increasing the risk of miscarriage and birth defects in offspring.
Limit alcohol intake as 5 drinks/week may lead to lower concentration and morphology of sperms.
Drugs- anabolic steroids like testosterone can even lead to complete shutdown of testicular functions. Cocaine, marijuana lowers the count, motility and morphology of sperms
Avoid using lubricants during sex
Stress decreases sexual function
Age impacts it too- relationship is not as direct and dramatic as between age and egg health. Pregnancy rates are somewhat lower and miscarriage rates are somewhat higher in couples with older fathers (especially for those over 40). A child's chances of birth defects, schizophrenia (2 times more if age >45yrs), and autism (2.2 times if age >50yrs) all increase with their father's age
When should couples seek help?
If conception hasn't happened after a 1 year of unprotected sex.
If female partner is >35 years and haven't gotten pregnant after 6 months of unprotected sex.
Known reproductive issues in couple:
Irregular cycles/no periods/heavy periods, Polycystic ovaries
Endometriosis: Severe pain beginning before and extend several days into a menstrual period/painful intercourse/already diagnosed endometriosis
History of ovarian surgery
Had two or more miscarriages
Men or women with cancer diagnosis
Male reproductive disorders- undescended testes, erectile dysfunction, varicocele (Agency)