It's not all about us. At least not us women. Men are involved. So here is RMACT's lead infertility doctor, Mark Leondires, MD, sharing his considerable knowledge about what the men go through. He even pulls Carolyn Gundell, RMACT's fertility nutritionist, into this blog for her particular style of wisdom.
Enjoy ~Lisa Rosenthal
The Role of Men During Fertility Treatment
Men sometimes feel powerless during fertility treatment. Even though about a third of my patients are experiencing male infertility and another third are experiencing male and female infertility, most of the “work” throughout assisted reproductive technology (ART) involves the female partner. But men can significantly impact their chances of successfully getting pregnant.
Many of my patients and their partners see fertility treatment as something that they are experiencing together; that emotional support will go a long way during fertility diagnosis and treatment. Besides this, men can take charge of their fertility.
My practice recently held a Fertility Seminar for Couples that included three sessions: Support and Encouragement for You and Your Partner (for couples), Optimizing Male Fertility (for men) and a Fertile Yoga class (for women). During my session with the men, we cleared up some misconceptions about male reproduction and how lifestyle habits – including nutrition, exercise and our vices (e.g., caffeine, alcohol) – impact our reproductive health.
5 Tips for Optimizing Male Fertility
Here are the areas that the attendees were most interested in during our one-hour discussion about optimizing male fertility:
1. Men can improve the health of their sperm and future baby in just three months. Because it takes 80 – 90 days for an immature sperm cell to grow into a mature sperm, men have the opportunity to positively impact the quality of their sperm by improving their health during the three months before fertility treatment. Men can optimize their health and the health of their sperm through improved nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management. Fertility patients should have regular visits to their primary care physician as well in order to identify and treat other health issues including: hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.
Additionally, these improvements can change the genetics and DNA of the future baby. The study of changes in gene expression, which is called epigenetics, is an area of science with growing interest and clinical data support.
2. Synthetic testosterone actually decreases sperm count. For anyone who took high school biology, it seems counterintuitive that testosterone could lower sperm count. But synthetic testosterone, which can be found in supplements, tricks a man’s body into thinking that it has produced enough testosterone and therefore it slows down sperm production. During fertility treatment men should avoid all supplements and never have a testosterone injection or use testosterone creams or gels before and IVF or IUI cycle.
3. Sleep could be the secret to improving everything from eating habits to endocrine health. While you are sleeping, your body is busy recovering from the day’s physical and emotional wear and tear. Sleep is also instrumental in regulating hormones, including testosterone and other factors for sperm production. Sleep is vital to improving your health. Sleep deprivation, which is typically less than six or seven hours of sleep, can lead to:
- Increased Weight Gain
- Increased Stress
- Increased Hunger
- Increased Cortisol
- Increased Abdominal Fat
- Decreased Muscle Mass
- Decreased Testosterone
- Decreased Fertility
4. Smoking today can affect your children tomorrow. Quitting smoking may be the single greatest change that a patient – male or female – can make for his/her own health and potentially for the health of his/her unborn child. Most people are aware that smoking has far-reaching consequences. Interestingly, smoking tobacco or any other product has a dramatic negative effect on sperm count, quality, motility, and most importantly the genes incorporated in the sperm. There is a great deal of literature available on the dangers of smoking when it comes to issues of reproduction.
It is important that both partners support each other in quitting smoking. This single change will not only improve their fertility, but will also improve their overall health and the health of an unborn child.
5. Caffeine can rob you of energy. We’ve all been there: it’s 4 p.m. and you need one last push before you leave the office. But that one trip to the coffee shop for something frothy, sprinkled with cinnamon, topped with whipped cream, ice cold or piping hot could actually be robbing you of sleep later in the evening. In order to ensure that caffeine does not diminish sleep quality or quantity, avoid caffeine after lunch.
In fact, male and female fertility patients should limit their caffeine intake throughout the day. Carolyn Gundell, the nutritionist with RMACT, and I recommend that our male patients consume no more than 300 mg per day, and ideally that is more like 150 mg. To give you a sense of what this means and how quickly caffeine can add up, consider these amounts:
- Starbucks Grande Coffee (16 oz) 400 mg
- Starbucks House Blend Coffee (16 oz) 259 mg
- Dr. Pepper (12 oz) 37 mg
- 7 Eleven Big Gulp Diet Coke (32 oz) 124 mg
- 7 Eleven Big Gulp Coca-Cola (32 oz) 92 mg
- Ben & Jerry's Coffee Buzz Ice Cream (8 oz) 72 mg
- Baker's chocolate (1 oz) 26 mg
- Green tea (6 oz) 40 mg
- Black tea (6 oz) 45 mg
- Excedrin (per capsule) 65mg
As the medical literature continues to evolve, we’ve learned that these changes not only improve a couple’s chances for pregnancy, but can have effects on the child in pregnancy and throughout his/her life.
~Dr. Mark Ledondires