Smoking/Drinking - The party's over for your partner once you start trying for a baby, but what about you? Same goes for men, says Cole. Sperm is just as affected by tobacco, alcohol, and drugs as a woman's eggs. Research suggests that this troublesome trio may lower sperm counts and slow motility. That means you should completely cut out recreational drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, cut down on alcohol, and quit smoking before you start trying. Plus, kicking the habit now can help your family later. Secondhand smoke is dangerous for your partner and your children, both in utero and after birth. Even the use of chewing tobacco has been linked to poor sperm function.
A lowered sperm count isn't the only reason you should lay off the bottle. Research shows that dads who drink the equivalent of two drinks a day during the month before conception have babies who weigh on average 6.5 ounces less than other babies. Low birth weight is a serious medical condition that can affect your child's health and behavior for the rest of his life.
Obesity - Some studies, but not all, have found an association between obesity in men and low sperm count.
Emotional Stress. Stress may interfere with the hormone GnRH and
reduce sperm counts.
Sexual Issues. In less than 1% of males with infertility problems, a problem with sexual intercourse or technique will affect fertility.
Impotence, premature ejaculation, or psychologic or relationship problems can contribute to infertility, although these conditions are usually very treatable.
Lubricants used with condoms, including spermicides, oils, and
Vaseline, can affect fertility. If you need a sperm friendly lubricant, the choice of many couples trying to get pregnant is Pre-Seed.
Testicular Exposure to Overheating.
Malnutrition and Nutrient Deficiencies.
Bicycling - Bicycling has been linked to impotence in men and also may affect the sperm count. Pressure from the bike seat may damage blood vessels and nerves that are responsible for erections. Mountain biking, which involves riding on off-road terrain, exposes the perineum (the region between the scrotum and the anus) to more extreme shocks and vibrations and increases the risk for injuries to the scrotum.
Exposure to Heavy Metals - Chronic exposure to heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, or arsenic may affect sperm production and most often cause a reduced production in otherwise healthy males. Trace amounts of these metals in semen seem to inhibit the function of enzymes contained in the acrosome, the membrane that covers the head of the sperm.
Varicocele - Varicoceles are dilated veins in the scrotum (just as an individual may have varicose veins in their legs). These veins are dilated because the blood does not drain properly from them. These dilated veins allow extra blood to pool in the scrotum, which has a negative effect on the sperm production. This condition is the most common reversible cause of male factor infertility and may be corrected by minor outpatient surgery.
Most experts do this microscopically to preserve the arterial supply and lymphatics. A sub-inguinal incision (about 1 inch above the penis and 1 inch from the midline) is usually used, as this avoids incising the abdominal muscles and creates less post-operative pain.
Things that can help!
1. Morning sex = higher sperm count: If you are trying to conceive, time intercourse when his sperm count is at its highest. Researchers have found that men generally have a higher sperm count in the mornings. Men’s sexual interest may be higher in the mornings as well.
2. His weight matters: Women are not the only ones who have weight related fertility issues. Men who are overweight or underweight are more likely to have problems with infertility. Having too much or too little body fat may affect a man’s hormone levels. Scientists in one Finnish study found that a 20 lb weight gain may increase a man’s chance of being infertile by 10 percent.
3. Have more sex not less: Men with low sperm counts are often advised to abstain from sex in order to improve their sperm count, but new research suggests that while this may improve sperm count, too much abstinence can damage the DNA of the sperm that is produced. Australian researchers have found that having daily sex actually improves the quality, if not the quantity of sperm. The thought behind this is that regular ejaculations get rid of the old sperm and make way for newer healthier sperm.
4. Folic acid is not only good for the goose, but it is also good for the gander. Most women know that taking a folic acid supplement is important during childbearing years because it can prevent certain birth defects. You may not have known that it is also important for men to eat a diet containing folic acid. A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkley found that men who had lower levels of folic acid (or folate) in their diets had a higher rate of chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm.
5. Avoid soy products. A recent study published by Oxford University Press’s online publication Human Reproduction, suggests that eating a diet high in soy foods could cause men to have a lower sperm count. According to the study, men who ate soy foods were more likely to have lower sperm counts (although not necessarily abnormally low) than men who did not eat soy.
6. Skip the lubricants. Lubricants can impede the movement of sperm. A woman’s cervical mucous is designed to help transport sperm, but many commercial lubricants have the opposite effect. Lubricants like KY Jelly, baby oil, or petroleum jelly have been shown to slow down or damage sperm. Saliva can also damage sperm. One lubricant that is okay to use is Pre-seed. According to one study in the ASRM’s journal of Fertility and Sterility, Pre-seed was not shown to harm or slow down sperm.
7. Watch out for cell phones and lap tops. There have been a few studies that have shown that excessive use of lap tops or cell phones can cause sperm damage. Lap tops, if placed on a man’s lap, get hot over time. The increase in scrotal temperature may have a negative effect on a man’s sperm if he keeps a lap top sitting on his lap for extended periods of time. Similarly, cell phone emissions might also cause sperm damage. Keeping a cell phone in a close proximity to a man’s scrotum could potentially cause a decrease in sperm quality, according to a small research study from the Cleveland Clinic.
8. Buy some boxers - The jury is still out on the boxers vs. briefs debate. Some say the testes can get overheated in briefs, inhibiting sperm production. Others say it's really not an issue unless sperm count is already a concern. Cole points out that if wearing boxers can potentially give you an edge over briefs, why not go with boxers for a few months? It's a fairly simple wardrobe adjustment that could speed things along.
9. Steer clear of the hot tub/hot showers - Don't look to hot tubs, saunas, or hot baths as a way to unwind before all this baby business gets under way. Heat kills sperm. And because they take up to three months to regenerate, if you spend a long time in the hot tub in January, it could be April before you have a full set of swimmers again. Testicles function best when they keep their cool: "The boys" are happiest at 94 to 96 degrees, a couple of degrees cooler than normal body temperature. To protect your swimmers, avoid hot tubs and saunas for up to three months before trying to conceive.