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IntroductionIt takes two to make a baby. Although a woman will carry and deliver the child, a man also has a leading role in pregnancy. For fertilization to occur, his sperm must be healthy and strong to reach and penetrate her egg.
To make this process happen, a man must be able to have and keep an erection, have enough sperm that are the right shape and move in the right way, and have enough semen to carry the sperm to the egg, suggests the U.S. Office on Women’s Health (OWH). A problem in any step in this process can cause trouble conceiving.
A variety of factors, from genetics and lifestyle to environmental exposures and hormones, can affect a man's fertility, so it's difficult to isolate the exact cause for infertility, said Dr. Jared Robins, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northwestern Medicine's Fertility and Reproductive Medicine in Chicago.
In fact, doctors can identify the cause of problems in about 80 percent of infertile couples, Robins noted. When there is a known cause of infertility, problems in the male partner tend to account for about 40 percent of infertile couples, Robins said.
When asked for his most important recommendation for men who want to start a family, Robins said, "A man should make sure he has a happy, healthy lifestyle — and a good relationship."
Robins said one of the problems he sees is that when couples become so fertility focused, they essentially stop having sex until they think it's the best times to conceive. "Their sex lives become focused on pregnancy, so infrequent sex can be a problem in these couples," he said.
The focus on fertility can also be stressful on a relationship, Robins noted. But there are many steps that men can take to enhance their health, lifestyle and relationship to increase a couple's chances of conceiving.
Here are 12 tips for men who want to improve their fertility.
Lose extra poundsSlide 2 of 25
Lose extra poundsStudies have suggested that couples in which the man is overweight or obese and the woman is of normal weight take longer to conceive than couples with no weight problems.
Some research has also shown that being overweight or obese affects a man's sperm quality, reducing sperm counts and decreasing their ability to swim, as well as increasing damage to genetic material (DNA) in sperm, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
A recent study found that overweight and obese men were more likely to have low sperm counts or a lack of viable sperm compared with normal-weight men, possibly making it harder for these men to father a child. The researchers suspect that too much body fat may be linked with changes in testosterone and other reproductive hormone levels in men.Slide 3 of 25
Get health conditions under controlSlide 4 of 25
Get health conditions under controlEffectively managing chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, may improve a man's chances of getting his partner pregnant, suggests The American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Other medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or varicoceles (enlarged veins in the scrotum that cause overheating), may also affect male fertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, some medications used to treat high blood pressure (beta blockers), depression and anxiety (SSRIs), pain (long-term opiates), and an enlarged prostate (finasteride), could have a negative influence on fertility. Supplemental testosterone can also decrease sperm production.
Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments for cancer can cause permanent infertility, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A man should speak to his doctor if the medication he is taking might interfere with his ability to father a child.Slide 5 of 25
Eat healthy foodsSlide 6 of 25
Eat healthy foods"The role of diet in male fertility is unclear," Robins told Live Science.
Even though the science may be inconclusive, it still makes sense for men to eat a variety of healthy foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich sources of antioxidants that may help to produce healthy sperm. Men should also consume fiber-rich foods, healthy monounsaturated fats, and moderate amounts of lean protein.
Robins said men frequently ask him whether drinking soda can decrease their sperm counts. He tells them there's no good evidence that caffeine in soda affects men's fertility, and there's little evidence that caffeine in coffee, tea and energy drinks is linked with fertility problems in men.Slide 7 of 25
Get regular physical activitySlide 8 of 25