12 Ways to Increase Male Fertility

Millions of individuals struggle with infertility, with some having a low sperm count or abnormal production. Read on to learn how you can boost male fertility.

If you and your partner are experiencing fertility issues, you are not alone. More than 6 million people have trouble conceiving each year, and that number continues to rise. Infertility affects individuals of every age, race, income level, and sex. But if you're experiencing male infertility—which is usually caused by a low sperm count and/or abnormal sperm production—there are things you can do to increase your odds of conception.

Below are 12 scientific ways to make sperm stronger for pregnancy. Note, however, that if you've been diagnosed with sperm problems, you should seek advice from a fertility specialist.

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Eat More Foods With Folate

Folic acid isn't just important for pregnant people; both partners can benefit from this vitamin. One study from the University of California Berkeley found that those who had lower levels of folic acid in their diet had a higher rate of abnormal chromosomes in their sperm. When sperm with abnormal chromosomes fertilize an egg, it may result in miscarriage or birth defects. (More than half of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo.)

So how can you add folic acid to your diet? While supplements are an option, adding foods that are high in folate, like beans, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, citrus fruits, and folate-enriched cereals, breads, and pastas, are your best bet.

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Get Enough Sleep

In a 2019 study, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark associated earlier bedtimes with improved sperm quality. The key seems to be going to bed before 10:30 pm. The researchers also found a link between getting sufficient sleep—between seven-and-a-half and eight hours per night—with improved fertility.

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Start Taking a Male Fertility Supplement

It takes two to create an embryo, which is why both parties should consider taking prenatal supplements. Start taking these supplements six months before conception to set the stage for sperm to be strong, healthy, mobile, and less clumpy, suggests Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. She says these vitamins should include B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. "Zinc is helpful in maintaining normal testosterone levels. Selenium has been shown to reduce the risk of birth defects and improving low sperm counts. There is no downside to being your healthiest self while trying to conceive with your partner."

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Stop Smoking to Speed Up Sperm Mobility

Smoking cigarettes can cause low sperm counts and slow-moving sperm, adding yet another reason to the "why to quit" column of your comparative report. Stop smoking at least three months before you try to conceive. "Sperm production takes about three months, so changes you make today won't show up in the semen for at least three months," says Suzanne Kavic, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at Loyola University Health System. You should also nix marijuana or other illicit drugs, as sperm may be damaged by these drugs. The chance of miscarriage also increases when partners use recreational drugs like cocaine, marijuana, and any of the other typical amphetamines.

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Limit Alcohol to Avoid Sperm Abnormalities

While you don't have to give it up completely, it's a good idea to limit your alcohol intake if you're trying to conceive. Alcohol has been shown to reduce sperm production and cause sperm abnormalities. Dr. Kavic says one to two drinks a day is fine (as long as they're normal-size servings!). It can can also affect your sexual performance, adds Dr. Kavic.

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Schedule a Pre-Conception Checkup

It's a good idea to get a thorough checkup before trying to conceive, as this will give you an overview of your health and fertility status. Expect discussions about your your weight, medication use, lifestyle factors, genetic history, and what you can do to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy. You may also receive immunizations to help prevent you from getting illnesses like chickenpox and the seasonal flu during pregnancy.

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Cut Down on Caffeine to Boost Sperm Count

A study of Danish men found that sperm count and sperm concentration were slightly reduced in those who had a high soda and/or caffeine intake. For this reason, Dr. Mazzullo says you should limit your caffeine consumption—that includes coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks—to 300 milligrams a day, or about three 6-ounce servings.

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Nix Stress With Exercise

Stress can increase abnormal sperm and reduce its concentration. Sleeping and eating well, exercising regularly, and engaging in other activities that you find enjoyable can help keep your stress in check.

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Make Sure Your Meds Are Fertility-Friendly

Before you start trying to conceive, you should make a list of all the medications your taking—including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements—and check with your doctor. Some medications can affect the quality or quantity of your sperm. If you're using a medication that could possibly interfere with your baby-making goals, your doctor should be able to recommend a more fertility-friendly alternative.

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Eat More Walnuts

In October 2013, the Biology of Reproduction Papers-in-Press published research highlighting the link between walnuts and fertility. In particular, eating 75 grams of walnuts daily was found to improve "sperm vitality, motility, and morphology"—maybe because of the antioxidants, micronutrients, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in walnuts. The research was conducted on healthy men between 21 and 35 years of age.

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Try Tribulus Terrestris

While you may not have heard of it, tribulus terrestris could end your fertility woes—or, at the very least, improve your chances of conception. Why? Because this medicinal herb improves erectile function and libido. It does not, however, raise testosterone levels or boost your sperm count. Always check with your doctor before using this product.

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Eat Maca Root

Native to Central Peru, maca root has several health benefits. Numerous studies have shown that eating dried maca root can improve one's libido. The dehydrated vegatable can also improve your sexual performance, and taking 1.75 grams of maca root powder every day may increase sperm count.

Though this story addresses male fertility issues, Parents acknowledges that not all people with testes identify as men and not all birthing people identify as women.

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