So you are trying for a baby, and doing all the right things for you - cutting down on alcohol, eating a varied diet, taking folic acid - but is your partner doing all the right things to increase your chances of conception too?
Many men don’t realise that there are a number of things they can and should be doing right from the start to improve the chances of their partner falling pregnant. Conception is harder if the man is producing few sperm, sperm with low motility (movement) or abnormally shaped sperm, and diet and exercise can contribute to the all round improvement of sperm quality.
Both parties should be enjoying a healthy and varied diet, which ideally began a few months before trying to conceive. Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake is a good start; he should try to limit his intake to two caffeine-containing drinks and two alcohol units per day. Why? Because both caffeine and alcohol can have an adverse affect on the quality and motility of his sperm. It takes three months for sperm to grow, so anything he does in the three months before you start trying is important too!
Nutritional deficiencies can abnormally affect sperm, so he should make sure h is eating a good, varied diet with plenty fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, starches, fish, pulses, nuts and seeds. Make sure everyone’s diet is high in vitamin C and zinc; for example, coloured berries are high in vitamin C, whilst nuts and seeds are high in zinc. Why not try berries with granola and yoghurt for breakfast with pumpkin seeds on top, or make a fruit crumble and add mixed nuts to the topping?
Of course, meat, seafood, eggs and dairy products are also high in zinc, so the diet shouldn’t feel too onerous!
Other elements that are important are vitamin E and selenium, which help protect sperm. Vitamin E can be found in nuts and green leafy vegetables, whereas selenium is found in meat, seafood, garlic, onions and brazil nuts. A tasty beef and onion casserole with spinach would provide loads of great sperm-enhancing nutrients.
There should be no real need for supplements given a healthy diet, and indeed too much iron can be detrimental to sperm so if he does take supplements, make sure they don’t have added iron.
He should slake his thirst ideally with water or fruit juices, and avoid too much processed and refined foods. Being overweight can impair his fertility too, so try to maintain a healthy weight.
As far as exercise goes, he should make sure he is fit and healthy, but don’t take up any new strenuous sports - this is not the time to start training for a marathon! He should limit the amount of time he wears constricting clothing - for example, tight fitting cycle shorts - as these can overheat the testicles and damage sperm counts. For this reason, he should limit time spent in a spa or steam room to around 15 minutes a couple of times a week, and opt for boxer shorts not thongs!