Are you fit for fatherhood? An introduction to male fertility

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1 Are you fit for fatherhood? An introduction to male fertility

2 Your Fertility: What you need to know Research has shown that over the past 50 years, men s sperm quality has deteriorated. This is one of the reasons why increasing numbers of otherwise healthy couples are resorting to fertility treatment. Our twenty first century lifestyle just isn t good for sperm. So, why not double check to make sure you are fit for fatherhood using these quick, non- invasive tests, checking your sperm from inside out. First of all, a semen analysis A semen analysis is the first step in male fertility testing as it checks the health of your sperm from the outside. It looks at the number of sperm you have (concentration), how fast they can swim (motility) and how well formed they are (morphology). This test can tell you if you and your partner are likely to get pregnant naturally or whether you may need a little help. DNA quality testing. A semen analysis checks your sperm from the outside, but what about the inside? You and your partner are each going to give some of your DNA to your baby, so it is really important to check your sperm s DNA quality! After the sperm fertilises the egg, its DNA is all that matters. Using this test will help you to see how easily you will be able to start a family, and how to plan for a healthy baby. Sperm DNA damage can lead to a number of problems with fertility such as: Problems getting pregnant naturally Miscarriage There are many sperm enemies in our world today such as smoking, being overweight, recreational drug use, environmental pollutants, even a food on the run diet. The link between them all is that they produce high levels of free radicals or oxidants; which can damage your sperm s health and DNA.

3 Do we need a sperm DNA damage test even if our semen analysis is normal? Yes. A semen analysis only looks at the outside of sperm. A DNA test looks inside; at a molecular level. There is little connection between the two. We use the SpermComet test. This is the next generation DNA test and the only test that can measure the amount of damage in individual sperm. Recent research shows that most men with normal semen analyses but whose partners don t get pregnant naturally, have sperm DNA damage. So even if your sperm counts are normal, the DNA inside may still be poor quality. Having both a semen analysis and a sperm DNA damage test will provide you with the most comprehensive information we can give about your fertility potential. What do your test results mean? Semen analysis A semen analysis has normal thresholds that are set by the World Health Organization. Sperm concentration: More than 15 million/ml Semen volume: At least 1.5ml Motility: Morphology: At least 32% swimming normally at least 4% normal in every way (heads, tails, mid pieces) Sperm DNA damage using SpermComet test If there is 25% or less damage: Your sperm DNA quality is good. Keep yourself in this shape and you will be fit for fatherhood. If there is more than 25% damage: You may have a problem with sperm DNA damage that could make you less likely to get your partner pregnant naturally. You should take steps to improve your life style and re- test after 3 months.

4 Improving your sperm health naturally You produce new sperm every three months so you can improve the quality of your next batch by protecting your sperm from these common enemies: Smoking Smoking over 20 cigarettes a day has been shown to reduce sperm count and motility. Tobacco contains over 4,000 ingredients and lots of them are toxic to sperm including cyanide, carbon monoxide, lead, cadmium and ammonia. One of the big problems with smoking is that it produces lots of free radicals and these can kill sperm or make them dysfunctional. Smokers often have lower sperm counts, more abnormal looking sperm and slower swimmers. In one study, 42% of men who smoked couldn t have a family compared to 28% of non-smokers. Drinking Drinking more than 2 pints of beer or 1 large glass of wine a day increases your risk of infertility. Alcohol can reduce sperm counts and motility. When starting a family, try to keep alcohol intake to a minimum for at least 3 months prior to trying. UK guidelines say that men trying for a baby shouldn t drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a week. Recreational drugs Cannabis damages sperm in many ways. It slows sperm down and changes the way they act, making it harder for them to find the egg and to penetrate it when they do. Regular cannabis use over a few years can permanently reduce a man s ability to make sperm. Age Until recently, nobody thought age affected a man s ability to father children. We all know of men who have fathered children in their sixties and even as late as their nineties. However, the latest figures show that men over 40 make up nearly a quarter of fertility consultations. Aging induces sperm DNA damage. Even if your partner gets pregnant, this damage can cause both short and long term problems for your child s health.

5 Weight Being overweight, and by overweight we mean having a body mass index of over 25, may affect the quality and quantity of your sperm. Regular exercise with healthy eating is essential to lose weight and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Stress Although severe stress can limit sperm production and quality by producing free radicals, one of the worst results of stress is it can put you off sex. Stress can affect your libido and as the healthiest sperm are produced up to 5 days after your last ejaculation, taking some of the stress out of your life will go a long way to helping your sperm quality. Heat When we say avoid heat, we don t mean cancel your flights abroad, we mean testicular heat! Sperm production is best at a lower temperature then your normal body temperature (which is why the testes are where they are). So if you increase your testicular heat, it s bad for your sperm. If you wear tight boxers, have long periods of sitting at a desk or even do lots of cycling, changing these habits can dramatically improve sperm production and quality.

6 Diet Scientists have shown that maintaining a healthy balanced diet is important for healthy sperm. Just like you, sperm need lots of different nutrients to function properly. Your diet should have: Lots of fruit and vegetables Some starchy foods, like bread, rice, potatoes and pasta Some protein like meat, fish, eggs and beans Some milk, yoghurt and cheese Not too much fat, sugar or salt If these are lacking, your fertility potential can be impaired. Since free radicals (oxidants) are some of the worst culprits in damaging your sperm, antioxidants can be the best protection. The easiest way to get these is by eating a wellbalanced diet with plenty of home cooked meals! Top 8 foods for healthy sperm! 1. Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain natural antioxidants such as lycopene which improve sperm motility and structure. Lycopene is actually more available in processed or cooked tomatoes, so tomato puree with a drop of olive oil is a great fat-soluble antioxidant. 2. Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are rich in essential minerals and vitamins. Most importantly, pumpkin seeds have a high zinc content, which plays an important role in protecting sperm DNA from damage. 3. Walnuts: Walnuts are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Eating a handful of walnuts a day can improve sperm motility and morphology. 4. Blueberries: Blueberries are a great source of natural antioxidants such as quercetin and resveratrol. Blueberries are a sperm superfood, and can improve nearly everything about sperm. 5. Lentils: Lentils are rich in folic acid which is usually associated with female fertility. However it is important for men too, and it is needed to protect the sperm s genes. 6. Pomegranates: Pomegranates are a pretty well-known high antioxidant superfood, great for circulation and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. On top of that, a glass of good quality pomegranate juice a day can increase sperm quality and sex drive! 7. Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that can help increase sperm motility. 8. Water: As basic as it seems, drinking enough water is a very simple way of improving sperm quality. Try hydrating with water instead of soft drinks or caffeine based drinks.

7 If you still think you need a little help, supplementing your diet with some vitamins and minerals is another easy way for you to improve your sperm s health and give them the best chance to get your partner pregnant. Although we don t yet know the best combination of supplements to your diet, some of these vitamins and minerals may help: 1. Zinc and Selenium as they play an important role in the formation of new sperm and in supporting of sperm motility. 2. Vitamin C protects sperm from oxidative damage and prevents sperm sticking together called sperm agglutination. In one study, men who suffered agglutination took a supplement mg per day, and improved their fertility. 3. Arginine as it is needed to produce sperm. Research shows that several months of arginine supplementation increases sperm count, quality and fertility. 4. Vitamin B12 is needed to maintain fertility. A study showed that taking 1,500mcg per day for 2 to 13 months increased sperm counts in 60% of the men. 5. Vitamin E works together with Vitamin C to protect sperm from free radicals. Vitamin E deficiency has shown to lead to infertility in animals. In a preliminary human trial, IU of Vitamin E given daily to both infertile couples led to significant increase in their fertility. 6. Co enzyme Q10 and Carnitine have both been shown to improve sperm motility. But have a SpermComet test before you start taking supplements! It is important to understand that overuse of antioxidants or taking antioxidants when your sperm are healthy can actually cause damage in itself to your sperm and your general health.

8 For more advice, talk to your Fertility Clinic : +44(0) :

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