When it comes time to making a baby, it’s really important that both mum & dad have taken the steps to ensure optimal egg & sperm quality. The egg and sperm are two major factors that affect how long it takes to fall pregnant, if the pregnancy goes to term & even the health of the baby after birth.
I talk about preconception care for women a fair bit, and so in this article I will be specifically focusing on pre-conception care for men – why it’s important, when you should do it & some of the basics to consider.
From my experience, I’ve found that most (MOST! I know, not all) men don’t know too much about preconception care and tend to have the attitude of ‘my swimmers will be fine!’ I actually really appreciate this perspective. Afterall, humans have been procreating for at least 200,000 years – and most of that time, we haven’t been doing preconception care. There are a few things to consider here:
- Pregnancy outcomes in the Western world have improved considerably with increased access to preconception, pregnancy and postnatal care.
- Our diets have changed a lot. The Western Diet is generally low in a range of nutrients. On top of this, our soil quality has significantly declined due to moving away from traditional farming practices, so even if you are eating a fantastic diet, you might not be getting all of the nutrients that you need.
- Sperm quality has gone downhill considerably. In approximately 50% of cases of infertility, sperm quality is a defining factor. There are a number of environmental and lifestyle factors that have contributed to this. Don’t worry, not all hope is lost.
What actually is preconception care?
Preconception care is the care given to the mother and father in preparation for pregnancy. For men, this ideally starts at least 3-4 months before trying to conceive, but realistically about 6 months prior to conception, as it takes approximately 42-76 days to complete a sperm reproduction cycle. If you have a nutritional deficiency, that then needs to be rectified prior to the start of the next sperm cycle so that you then have adequate nutrient levels for optimal sperm development. For men the focus of preconception care is on optimizing sperm health for conception.
For women the focus of preconception care is on optimizing egg health for conception & preparing the body for pregnancy.
What does optimizing sperm health do?
By caring for your swimmers, you are:
- Enhances fertility
- Increasing the chances of your partner’s pregnancy going to term (ie. Your baby being born at the right time, avoiding miscarriage)
- Enhances your genetic contribution to your child
- It is your DNA that you pass onto your child – this can easily be damaged by a range of lifestyle factors
- This increases your child’s health outcomes throughout life
- Also being supportive of your partner & what she is doing to prepare her body to create & grow your baby
When should I consider preconception care?
I highly recommend starting preconception care 3-4 months prior to conception, or ideally 6 months prior to conception, particularly if there are a few things in your lifestyle that you have to change. More often than not, men turn to pre-conception care after something has gone wrong. When it comes to miscarriage and other pregnancy or birth outcomes it is so important that there is no blame – it isn’t Mum or Dad’s fault, it’s simply what happened. Sometimes there is a physiological known cause, and sometimes there isn’t. I am a really big believer in the Naturopathic principle ‘Preventare’ which identifies the importance of choosing prevention over cure. Where you can, engage in preconception care. If money is an issue, just do the basics. Wellness is always about simply doing your best.
What do I need to do?
The basics are:
- Reduce your alcohol intake, to either no alcohol or less than 2 standard drinks per day
- Quit smoking
- Stop taking illicit drugs – steroids and marijuana are linked to lowered testosterone and lowered sperm quality, cocaine also affects sperm quality. In fact, anabolic steroids have shown to completely stop sperm production in some men, and this isn’t always reversible.
- Check with your doctor if any of your medications could affect your fertility
- Move to a predominantly wholefoods diet
- Reduce the takeaway
- Eat plenty of fruit & veg
- Eat good quality meat & fish
- Reduce the packaged foods
- You can read more about this here
- Consider what chemicals you are being exposed to – through your workplace, plastic containers, dyes, deodorants, shaving creams, etc.
- Consider your heavy metal exposure ie. are you consuming a lot of fish high in mercury? Switch to low mercury fish that is wild caught, where possible
- Take a prenatal if you can. I recommend Naturobest Preconception Multi For Men.
When to see a practitioner:
If you have any underlying health issues, have been using illicit drugs or prescribed medications which can have an affect on fertility, it’s likely worth working with a practitioner like a Naturopath or Nutritionist to really get on top of your health, supporting your body holistically, and optimizing your sperm health. If you know that you have a lowered sperm count, sperm motility or testosterone, I highly recommend working with a Naturopath or Integrative GP working in this field to support you. It can also be helpful to connect with a practitioner to ensure that your diet is up to scratch and that you’re on the right prenatal for your needs.
Is your partner already pregnant?
Sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to partake in preconception care, and that’s okay to. If this is the case for you, the best thing that you can do is to support your partner to have a healthy pregnancy.
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