Donor egg treatment allows for couples with poor egg quality to still achieve a healthy pregnancy. While our egg donor registry has high-quality egg donors all of whom have been prescreened and are ready to donate, many patients wonder what the male partner can do to promote healthy sperm development.
If you’re actively preparing for treatment, you might have even attempted some of the “tricks,” such as switching from briefs to boxers—an idea often touted in glossy magazines.
But do these strategies truly improve your fertility? We turned to Dr. Eric Levens of our Annandale, VA office to shed some important light and actionable steps that could help you increase your knowledge and potentially enhance your fertility.
Q: What’s a semen analysis, and when should I have one?
Dr. Levens: A semen analysis is a non-invasive test in which we assess your sperm. In a semen analysis, we examine three main things:
- Count – How many sperm you have
- Motility – How well your sperm moves
- Morphology – How your sperm are shaped
We perform the semen analysis and sperm freeze during your initial visit to our Rockville, MD, office. The analysis and the sperm freeze are both complimentary. All infectious disease bloodwork must be up-to-date before this trip, in order for the test to take place.
The frozen sperm is then used on the day of the egg donor’s egg retrieval. The male partner does not need to return for the transfer appointment. Only the female patient needs to travel back to America for the frozen embryo transfer.
Q: What can I do to promote healthy sperm development?
Dr. Levens: To have the maximum possible impact on sperm quality, you need to do more than simply eat the “right foods” or add a fertility supplement to your diet.
Whether you’re hoping to become a father soon or planning for future parenthood, here are a few actionable items to help you improve your sperm health.
1. Maintain a healthy weight.
Carrying extra weight can increase testicle temperature and ultimately hinder sperm health. Not to mention, our body’s fat cells produce estrogen, which, when present in abundance, can decrease sperm production.
Since a direct correlation exists between obesity and having fertility issues, weight loss may help men improve sperm quality.
To maintain a weight within the ideal range, we encourage our patients to focus both on maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in moderate physical activity.
2. Stop smoking.
Smoking increases oxidative stress on all body tissue, including sperm. Oxidative stress impacts both sperm motility and sperm morphology.
3. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Drinking excessive alcohol not only impacts your physical health—which can result in sperm issues—but it also commonly causes sexual dysfunction. This dysfunction may impact the frequency with which you are able, or choose, to have sex, therefore making conception harder.
4. Avoid excessive heat.
Your testicles need to be at a lower temperature than the rest of your body—which is why they form outside of your body. Like smoking, excessive heat exposure puts oxidative stress on your sperm.
Further research is needed to know how much heat is truly damaging, however. Though we often hear it, there is no guarantee that switching from briefs to boxers will positively impact sperm count. At the same time, however, making the switch likely won’t hurt.
5. Don’t take testosterone-containing medicines.
Some men who struggle to maintain a healthy libido often receive a testosterone (Low T) prescription from their general physicians as a remedy. While it may seem that increasing your testosterone level will help your sperm, many of the medicines used to do this actually suppress sperm function.
6. Take a vitamin.
Maintaining an ideal vitamin and mineral balance is critical for sperm production. Some research indicates that zinc and folate supplements help promote sperm health. At Shady Grove Fertility, we commonly recommend you take daily supplements that contain amino acids, including acetyl l-carnitine, such as Theralogix, which will not only potentially improve your sperm count and quality but also your overall health.
Medical Contribution by: Eric Levens, M.D., of SGF’s Annandale, VA office
To learn more about how to promote sperm health and our International Donor Egg Programme, please email Amanda Segal, our International Patient Liaison.