The focus of fertility often falls on the woman because she will be the one to carry the baby, but infertility is not solely a female problem. The CDC reports that “in about 35 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is identified along with a female factor. In about 8 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is the only identifiable cause.”
In many discussions of fertility, “the father has been ignored,” says Dr. Marianne J. Legato, an academic, physician and pioneer in the field of gender-specific medicine.
"Worldwide there has been an estimated 40 percent decrease in the number of fertile males in the world. We’re not quite sure why that’s true, but the increasing frequency of toxins in the environment, of hormones like estrogen added to foods – all of that has had a negative effect on male fertility and that should be taken very seriously.”
In many cases, these issues can be corrected, but you have to know what you’re working with first. “The first thing that should be done is to test the quality and amount of sperm in the father,” Legato says. This testing takes the form of a semen analysis, which will examine the number and concentration of the sperm in the man’s ejaculate as well as their size and shape (morphology) and swimming ability (motility).
Once that’s been analyzed, the man may be able to make some simple changes to improve his sperm’s chances of fertilizing an egg naturally. Legato says “there’s a 42- to 76-day window of opportunity before a conception actually takes place to plump up (no pun intended) the quality of the sperm,” and that improving the man’s diet is very important to improving the quality of sperm.
Legato says the “single most important nutritional intervention we can make is to ensure enough quantities of antioxidants.” Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation in the cells, which can prevent damage. “Some of the most damaging things in the environment are toxins called free radicals, and the way we protect against them is to supply the person with antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent damage to the sperm,” and can boost a man’s fertility. “Good nutrition supplements like HeNatal” that help you achieve “adequate levels of vitamin E, which affects sperm motility, and beta carotene, which helps sperm concentration and motility,” may also help.
In addition, Legato says lifestyle adjustments may help. Discontinuing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and reducing stress can also improve the quality of a man’s sperm, and are important factors in a successful conception. Losing weight if you’re obese or not gaining more weight may also help. “To sum up, fertility is not only the business of the wife, it’s also that of the husband or partner. Nutrition and other factors in the environment, lifestyle, toxins in the environment – all of that can affect the quality of sperm,” she says.
Excerpt from Interview with Dr. Legato and US News and World Report