Most men don’t even think about sperm until they’re trying to conceive. But male infertility due to low sperm count affects millions of men. In fact, up to 20% of young men at some time have a low sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen). The good thing? A great deal of these men still end up fathering children.

If you’re interested in improving your sperm count, you’ve probably encountered varied information on the subject. We’ve sorted truth from fiction and compiled helpful tips for optimal sperm health.

What People Think Lowers Sperm Count

When you’re trying to conceive, you may receive advice from well-meaning friends and family. Should you stop drinking soda? Wear boxer shorts? Abstain from sex or have more sex? We conducted a survey of over 1,000 respondents asking them to rate on a scale of “not at all” to “significantly” how they believe each factor affects sperm count. According to our survey, the top three factors people perceived as harmful were radiation, narcotics, and stress. Being overweight, smoking cigarettes, and wearing tight underwear followed close behind.

perception vs reality of what lowers sperm count

What actually affects sperm count

As you can see, some popular theories about sperm count are actually myths. Drinking cola or Mountain Dew and having sex have no ill effects on sperm count. Below you’ll discover which activities truly do affect sperm health so you can change your habits and boost your sperm count as well as sperm quality and morphology (size and shape), sperm motility (movement), and general reproductive health. It takes 10 to 11 weeks to produce sperm, so keep that time frame in mind as you make these changes.

Tight Pants or Underwear

When you’re trying to conceive, it’s best to forgo tight underwear and skinny jeans in favour of boxer shorts and loose pants. One study found that induced testicular hyperthermia (in simple terms, the testes become too hot) caused by wearing extremely tight underwear for 120 consecutive days lead to declines in the number of motile and viable sperm as early as day 20, and overall sperm count by day 34. Over the course of the study, some participants even saw a 100% reduction in sperm count. But don’t worry if tight undergarments are part of your wardrobe: the sperm count and viability of study participants returned to normal 73 days after forgoing the hyperthermia-causing drawers.

Weight

Another important factor in optimal sperm production is to maintain a healthy weight. In the U.K., about 2% of people are underweight while 67% of men are overweight. Men who have a BMI over 25 can have up to a 22% decline in sperm count, as well as reduced concentration and motility. And those with a BMI over 35 are 19 times more likely to experience low sperm count. On the flip side, men who are underweight (a BMI of less than 18.5) produce 8.6% less semen volume (including a decreased number of normal, motile sperm) and tend to experience reduced sperm motility.

BPA-Containing Products

Avoid excessive exposure to potentially harmful chemicals whenever possible – especially bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is often added to plastics in many common items such as water bottles, and the lining of metal food cans to make the plastics more pliable and less brittle. High concentrations of BPA affect sperm motility and function.

PFC-Containing Products

PFCs (perfluorochemicals) are commonly found in non-stick pans and many other household items. While their purpose is to repel stains and water, they may be repelling your ability to conceive. PFCs have been shown to both cause a reduction in normal, healthy sperm as well as a decrease in overall sperm count.

Sunscreen

Slathering on sunblock protects your skin from harmful rays, but it may not do your sperm count any favours. Chemicals found in sunscreen can reduce sperm count by 33%: Octinoxate alters hormone levels, and oxybenzone slows sperm production. Your best bet is to limit time spent in the sun and wash off sunscreen immediately after coming indoors. Interestingly, cool weather is better overall for sperm quality, which explains why conceptions tend to peak during winter with a high percentage of babies born in fall.

Drinking and Smoking

Too much time spent at the pub can negatively impact your conception efforts. Consuming alcoholic beverages lessens sperm count and concentration as well as the percentage of normal sperm. Smoking cigarettes can harm DNA, prompting sperm mutations. The bonus? Cutting back on alcohol and tobacco is good for general health as well as sperm production..

Marijuana

If you smoke marijuana and want to conceive, it’s time to find another stress reliever. Studies show that lighting up joints can affect the size and shape of sperm and thus inhibit sperm function.

Abstinence

While some people advise “saving up” sperm, it turns out skipping sex for too long can actually reduce the chance of conception. Men with normal sperm counts who are abstinent for 11 to 14 days experienced an 11.7% reduction in motile sperm percentage and a 24.7% reduction in normal sperm. Your best bet? If you’re trying to conceive, don’t go longer than 10 days without having sex.

Cell Phones (Radiation/Heat)

Removing your cell phone from your trouser pocket and carrying it elsewhere can boost your fertility. Studies show that heat or electromagnetic radiation that emanates from mobile phones can reduce sperm motility by 8.1% and viability by 9.1%

Other Factors That Reduce Sperm Count

Making a few other small lifestyle changes can also improve sperm count, health, and function.

  • Heat: Lounging in a Jacuzzi or sauna may be relaxing – but it’s not so hot for your sperm count. To produce sperm, your testes should be 2 degrees Celsius lower than your normal body temperature, and exposure to Jacuzzis, saunas, electric blankets, heating pads, and heated car seats can decrease sperm production. Even prolonged sitting, whether at your work desk or lounging on the sofa, can cause testicular hyperthermia.
  • Processed Meat: Back away from the bangers and mash, and put down that BLT. Studies show that eating processed meats, including bacon and sausage, can reduce sperm count by as much as 30%. Fish, on the other hand, can contribute to sperm quality.
  • Watching Television: Put down the remote. Watching more than 20 hours of TV per week reduces sperm production by 44%.
  • Using a Laptop: The heat from a laptop can elevate testicle temperature, adversely affecting sperm. Your best bet? Place the laptop on a desk. If you must place it on your lap, keep your knees together or use a lap pad for added protection, and keep computer sessions short.
  • Excessive Exercise: Exercising too much can reduce testosterone, decreasing sperm count. Additionally, bicycling frequently can lead to fewer and less active sperm.
  • Vegetarian Diet: While it sounds healthful, a vegetarian diet can actually lessen sperm count. The possible culprits? Vitamin deficiency as well as replacing meat with soy. The isoflavones found in soy products (such as tofu) mimic estrogen, harming fertility.
  • Medical Treatments: Radiation from X-rays, chemotherapy, and certain antibiotics can impact male fertility.
  • Medical Issues: Varicocele (a varicose vein on the testicle), fevers, untreated infections (sexually transmitted or otherwise), and other health conditions can contribute to decreased sperm count and quality.
  • Toxins: Exposure to industrial chemicals, heavy metals, and narcotics can adversely affect semen quality and sperm count.

Discreet Help for Issues Related to Sex

For couples struggling with sex related issues, seeking help is important, but it also can be difficult. Sex is a sensitive topic that many people aren’t comfortable discussing. Visit onlinedoctor.superdrug.com for discreet advice and treatment for sex and sexual health issues from the comfort of your own home.

Methodology

We conducted a survey to reveal how much people know about activities that negatively affect sperm count, motility, and quality. We researched and reviewed various credible studies to discover which activities actually do negatively impact men’s reproductive health.

Sources

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