Although most fertility treatment focuses on women; at least 1/3 of couples have a male factor contributing to infertility. Newer studies even show that subtle changes in sperm quality—that aren’t detectable by standard testing—can contribute to poor fertilization, abnormal embryo development and even recurrent early pregnancy loss. That’s because the sperm contributes half of the genetic material to the developing embryo as well as factors that contribute to normal fertilization and early development. But they are easily damaged.
Sperm are particularly susceptible to free radical damage—the charged particles that are a normal byproduct of oxygen metabolism. They are so compact, that they contain very low concentrations of the scavengers that neutralize these damaging little sparks of energy. When a free radical encounter DNA—which the mature sperm is loaded with and ready to contribute to the awaiting egg—the genetic material can be damaged; a process called “fragmentation.” Sperm lack the ability to repair this damage when it occurs. As a result, seemingly healthy looking sperm can prevent a pregnancy from getting off to a healthy start.
The good news is that there are steps that men can take to minimize the naturally occurring damage to sperm and markedly improve your chance of having a baby together. Here’s what he can do:
- Avoid exposure to tobacco and other products that promote free radical formation (more about this in future posts).
- Eat foods rich in the following antioxidants:
- β-carotene (i.e., spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cherries, melons, peaches)
- Vitamin C (i.e., citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, berries, mangos, pineapples)
- Vitamin E (i.e., peanuts, almonds, soy, olive oil, wheat germ, cereals)
- Zinc (i.e., asparagus, eggs, potatoes, fish)
- Consider a “preconception supplement.”
A recent study confirmed that making these healthy changes can improve pregnancy rate while also reducing the risk of miscarriage. I know when my wife and I were going through fertility treatment; I took the product called Conception XR despite my healthy diet and normal semen analysis. Not only did I feel it was the least I could do but I do believe that it helped us to conceive our daughter.