If you have been trying to become pregnant for more than a year without success, (6 months if the intended mother is over 35), it’s time to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist to explore your options.
Both the intended mother and intended father can expect a variety of testing to help determine the underlying issue. Male factor infertility accounts for 40 to 50 percent of all infertility cases, and it’s often linked to sperm. Whether it’s sperm count, motility, or the structure and shape, men often wonder if there is anything they can do to better prepare for starting a family. Are there any science-backed ways to increase sperm count?
As a matter of fact, researchers are finding that there are a variety of ways to increase sperm count naturally, and many of these lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellness too.
First, be sure you have a solid understanding of your diagnosis. Do you have low testosterone levels? If the testes don’t make enough of this steroid hormone, it will result in low sperm count. But don’t rely on testosterone replacement drugs - this can signal the body to stop producing its own, making conception even more difficult.
There are several conditions related to sperm count, including oligozoospermia, or a low sperm count defined as less than 15 million sperms per mL, and azoospermia, which is the total absence of sperm in the semen.
You may also hear about morphology, which refers to the size and shape of the sperm, and motility, which is the movement of the sperm. Talk to your reproductive endocrinologist about what you’re contending with to determine the best course of action.
In addition to certain nutrients, there are several specific vitamins that can help boost sperm count and overall health:
Vitamin C supplements have antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress, high levels of which may lead to infertility. The supplement has been found to increase sperm motility; one study found that men taking 1,000 mg vitamin C twice a day for up to two months increased motility by 92 percent - and sperm count by over 100 percent. It even found a 50 percent reduction in deformed sperm cells.
Vitamin D is thought to boost testosterone levels. Several studies have suggested that men who are deficient in vitamin D also have low testosterone levels, so supplementation may increase these levels as well as sperm motility.
Zinc is an essential mineral that experts believe plays a crucial role in male fertility. A deficiency in zinc has been linked to low testosterone levels, poor sperm quality and, as a result, a higher risk of infertility.
Coenzyme Q10 and folate have also been found to improve fertility.
Better yet, get those vitamins and minerals through your diet. Nutrient-rich foods are beneficial at any stage of life, but they’re especially important for men during their reproductive years. The foods to increase sperm count are packed with zinc, folate, vitamin B-12, and antioxidants like vitamins C, D, and E.
Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts are a good boost in folate, low levels of which are linked to lower sperm count and density.
Fish and seafood, especially clams, are rich in vitamin B-12, which is critical for sperm health. It increases sperm count, motility and even reduces sperm DNA aging. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are good sources of vitamin D and can help increase testosterone.
Dairy products like eggs and milk are also packed with B-12, vitamin D and D-aspartic acid, which is an amino acid that helps regulate male sex hormones. Increasing those levels can also increase sperm concentration.
Note: go easy on the soy; it’s full of isoflavones, which may lower semen quality.
This can be easier said than done. Especially if in the midst of infertility, the suggestion to “just relax!” may be met with frustration. There’s a reason for this advice, though: cortisol, a steroid hormone that increases with prolonged high stress, has a strong negative impact on testosterone.
In fact, when cortisol levels go up, testosterone levels go down. You can work to reduce stress in small ways, like taking a break at work and going for a short walk outside, meditation, or medication if recommended by your doctor.
Daily habits may be inhibiting your testosterone levels. If you’re not already, focus on fresh, nutrient-rich foods and regular exercise, ditch the smoking, and cut back on alcohol. Not only is excessive alcohol consumption risky for your general health, but it can also have a major impact on testosterone levels. And when testosterone is low, sperm quality follows.
Your reproductive endocrinologist may also suggest more aggressive forms of treatment, such as surgery to correct or repair obstructions. If testosterone is still found to be low, you may consider gonadotropin injections to stimulate the production of sperm. Other hormone treatments and medications can also be successful ways to increase sperm count. Sperm can even be retrieved directly from the testicles for use in IVF.
While men sometimes feel helpless in male factor infertility, there is plenty of reason to remain optimistic. Not only is it possible to increase sperm count naturally, but there are also a variety of other options – both lifestyle and treatment – that can help you successfully have a baby. Whether you are a single parent-to-be or building a family with your partner, our team is here to support you!
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.