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TV fertility guru shares her tips to help men become dads
Dr Larisa Corda is regularly seen on This Morning talking about fertility issues. Here she explains how infertility can affect men and shares her tips if you’re trying to become a working dad.
Men are often the neglected, shame ridden and forgotten part of infertility. Whether it be a medical issue affecting their ability to conceive, or whether it’s the burden of anger and frustration they have to bear seeing the person they most love in the world struggle to conceive, the emotions engendered are many and complex, yet often endured in silence.
Yet we cannot have a conversation about infertility without involving the men too.
Their contribution to the process of conception is just as important as a woman’s and it’s time we start discussing it on equal terms as well, providing men with an arena to discuss their problems in, but also with good education on practical changes they can make and start to help optimise their chance of success when it comes to having a baby later down the line.
In an age where women and men are getting older before they look to start a family, we often hear about the reproductive decline on the female side, yet there remains this false notion that men will be able to continue to father children even into their 90s! The media runs headlines of men in their 70s and 80s who supposedly had no problem at all making their partner pregnant. Despite the fact that studies have shown a man’s fertility at the age of 40 is about half of that of a man aged 20.
There doesn’t seem to be the same push to raise fertility awareness in men and enable them to be more proactive, so that they can detect any problems sooner rather than later and still have time to optimise their sperm production.
In fact, I’d go so far as to advocate that men should have the equivalent of the female fertility MOT where they are able to arm themselves with information and start implementing lifestyle changes as soon as possible.
Lifestyle changes have the ability to positively influence male fertility on a scale that is much bigger than for a woman. Because sperm are particularly sensitive to environmental triggers, as is being shown by various studies looking at the effect of everything from the use of paracetamol in the mother during pregnancy, to the effect of plastics on semen parameters, so it’s especially important to consider how to minimise the risk of exposure to this.
This is why I always recommend The Conception Plan to any man who is looking to optimise his reproductive health, even if he hasn’t already actively started trying with his partner, or if he is undergoing treatment. The principles are essentially the same as for women, with all pillars essentially complementing each other and improving sperm health in a very real and significant way that can be noticed after just 3 months of commitment. The main principles are summarised here:
Eat well and focus on eating organically and seasonally as this way you’ll know the produce is far less likely to have been influenced by hormones, pesticides, added preservatives, chemicals and additives. Have a majority plant based diet and get strict about what you’re putting inside of yourself as it literally influences not just your health, but the health of your baby through the process of epigenetics.
Exercise to help boost the circulation to your reproductive organs and also to help you maintain a healthy body and mind. Doing exercise can also help to reduce stress but too much or being over vigorous can do the opposite, so be mindful and aim for that which is realistic and achievable for you. This will also help you to keep weight within the normal range that is vital for fertility and also sperm health.
You absolutely need to stop smoking as this can cause damage to the sperm, that may even be passed on to the future baby. In addition, second hand smoke inhalation when a woman is pregnant can have negative effects on the growth and development of the child.
Keep alcohol to a minimum (I usually advise no more than 5 units a week for a man) as it can affect sperm production and increase the amount of oestrogen in your body, whilst reducing testosterone. Steroids can also have the same effect on testosterone and sperm production, so do not use these.
Check with your doctor about any long term medication you may be on that could affect sperm count or quality, and see if your doctor is able to change these or lower their dose, whilst continuing to manage your symptoms.
Manage your stress and keep caffeine (which is a stress activator) to a minimum. Too much chronic stress, especially if you are struggling with infertility, can lead to an imbalance in your fertility hormones and also problems with sleep and lowered libido. We also tend to adopt unhealthy behaviour if we feel stressed, such as eating too much sugar, drinking alcohol, or smoking, all of which can reduce the chance of getting pregnant. Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, being outdoors in nature, having a bath, spending time with close friends, or a hobby can all help reduce stress, as can acupuncture, reflexology, hypnotherapy and reiki.
Sleeping well and ensuring your bedroom becomes a sanctuary that is conducive to sleep. It’s important to get enough rest to support your physical, mental and emotional health. This means clearing out the clutter, not using any electrical devices such as TVs and mobile phones before bed time, and ensuring the room is dark enough to allow you to get the crucial 7-8 hours sleep a night that most of us need for our wellbeing.
Have sex often and throughout your partner’s menstrual cycle. Most people become too obsessed with the fertile window and only having sex then. As long as you’re having intercourse several times a week throughout your cycle, there will be sperm available to fertilise the egg, as sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for several days and recent studies are suggesting that sperm quality may actually improve with more regular sex, increasing the chance of conception.
Get yourself on a good multivitamin supplement a few months before you start to try but remember that this is not an alternative to a good diet. For men, a supplement rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, E, selenium, zinc and garlic can support healthy sperm.
Be mindful of the toxic elements influencing your environment, from the water you drink, to the toxins found in cleaning products, to the plastic used to cover food. The toxins we absorb can end up being harmful to our hormones that control fertility, as well as the sperm. Always try and use products in their most natural state especially as some recent studies have also shown toxins influencing sperm DNA which can be passed on to offspring and has been linked to obesity and other health issues in the child.
Remember not to neglect your own emotional needs. Whether its dealing with your own infertility, or helping to support your partner, it’s important to seek help and talk to a counsellor or a support group that can help, and where you will be able to gain strategies in how to deal with the stress this burden brings, as well as realising you are not alone.
Dr Larisa Corda is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist. To follow her advice and tips, including The Conception Plan, go to www.drlarisacorda.com and @drlarisacorda on Instagram