Trying for a baby? Here's how to optimise your sperm count
If you’re having infertility problems, you’re not alone. In Singapore, in about 15 per cent of couples, the woman cannot get pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected sex. It’s not just because women are waiting too long to become mothers. Men have their issues, too.
“Men actually account for about half of infertility problems,” says Dr Matthew Lau, Consultant, KKIVF Centre, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group. Worldwide, sperm counts have been dropping steadily in the last 50 years.
In fact, 10 to 20 per cent of all men have a sperm count below the WHO cut-off level for male fertility. “About 2-3 per cent of men produce no sperm at all,” notes Dr Lau. Their semen, or ejaculate, only contains fluid from the seminal vesicles, with no live spermatozoid in it.
Tips to improve your sperm count and sperm quality
The good news is that most men can do something to improve their sperm count and sperm quality. Here are some tips to inject some vigour in your microscopic “swimmers”.
- Avoid wearing tight trousers or underwear. The scrotum is external for a reason: “Sperm production is optimised at 36 degrees, a notch below normal body temperature,” says Dr Lau.
- Avoid taking hot baths or visiting saunas.
- Strike a balance between “excessive” ejaculation (i.e. every day) and prolonged abstinence, which can increase the number of dead sperms. “Having regular sexual intercourse every other day may be optimum,” says Dr Lau.
- Check with your doctor if you’re taking commonly prescribed drugs that can influence sperm quality. These drugs can include calcium channel blockers, various antibiotics, spironolactone (diuretic), sulfasalazine (anti-inflammatory) and glucocorticoids.
- Give up the use of anabolic steroids and any recreational drugs.
- Quit smoking. Many studies have shown a link between smoking and low sperm count and infertility.
- Limit your alcohol intake. “As there is controversy over how much is too much, better err on the side of safety,” suggests Dr Lau.
- Lose some weight. Studies have shown that when body mass index (BMI) is over 25, sperm concentration decreases by 26 per cent.
- Mind your mobile phone usage. According to a small study, heavy mobile phone users have a sperm count that’s up to 40 per cent lower, with significantly decreased sperm motility and viability, says Dr Lau.
- Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium or gluthatione are known to help,” says Dr Lau. Sperm production has a cycle of 8-10 weeks and therefore the antioxidant should be taken for at least 2-3 months.
Of course, these remedies won’t help much if the infertility problem stems from an underlying medical condition such as varicocele (enlargement of the veins in the scrotum), an infection such as mumps or a hormonal deficiency.
Fortunately, many of these conditions can be treated. The best piece of advice remains to see your doctor in case of infertility problems.
With expertise from the KKIVF Centre at:
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