Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, smoking or alcohol consumption have been shown to be important in the development of many diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Therefore, it is only natural that, following a diagnosis of male sub-fertility many men may wonder if there is something in their past or current lifestyle which could explain their diagnosis. This article will review our current knowledge about what lifestyle choices are thought to be important in male fertility, as well as give some suggestions about what men can do about them.
First, it is important to note that most of the research which has investigated the impact of lifestyle choices on male fertility has done so indirectly by looking at effects on measurements of sperm quality, such as sperm concentration, motility or morphology. This is not the same as investigating whether one or other lifestyle factor reduces a man’s chances of being a dad. Therefore, with this caveat in mind, the following is a summary of what we know about the key lifestyle choices which can reduce sperm quality and therefore the things that men should try and avoid.
Many studies have shown that smoking tobacco can reduce the number of sperm produced. However, we also know that smoking can damage the DNA that sperm contain. Therefore, if you smoke, you should make every effort to quit. Join a smoking cessation programme if you need help.
Choice of underwear
Hot baths, heated car seats and laptop use
Anything which can heat up the testicles has the potential to reduce the quality and quantity of sperm produced. Therefore, its preferable to take a shower, switch off those heated car seats and put your laptop on a table.
Regular exercise has many benefits for men’s health, and it has been shown that sperm quality is generally better in men who are active compared to those who are not. However, too much exercise (e.g. doing triathlons) can cause a problem for sperm production in some men.
Studies have shown that cannabis can reduce sperm quality. The effect of other recreational drugs on sperm has not been well studied but its good advice to avoid them.
Men who have a healthy (Mediterranean style) diet with lots of fish, chicken and vegetables generally have better sperm than men who eat lots of red meat and processed food. Therefore, its good advice to try and eat a healthy diet. This may also improve other aspects of your health too.
Unfortunately, there have been relatively few studies which have shown that if men make any changes to their lifestyle that their sperm quality (and therefore their fertility) will improve. However, it seems logical that it should. However, because it takes 3 months to produce a sperm from start to finish, any lifestyle change should be sustained over many months to maximise any chances of pregnancy.