Male fertility is a bit of a taboo subject.
The lack of information about male fertility and sexual health means that most men assume they're fertile if they can have sex. If their partner doesn't get pregnant, many men feel confused and ashamed.
Health, age, and lifestyle play crucial roles in male fertility but aren't often discussed.
We've compiled this article to lift the lid on male fertility and help chaps wanting to start a family.
What age are men most fertile?
Fertility depends on semen quality – the ejaculate fluid that contains sperm cells. For a man to be fertile, semen must have a healthy sperm count, concentration, morphology (shape), and motility (how fast the sperm swim).
Interestingly, research suggests male fertility is at its peak during the ages of 30-35 based on semen quality1.
At what age do men's sperm count drop?
Semen quality and overall semen volume tend to drop after 45. But this doesn't mean you aren't fertile after this age. It just means conceiving may be more challenging.
The more concerning aspect of ageing is the loss of the genetic quality of sperm. Researchers have found genetic defects in sperm cells rise with age2, which increases the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and autism.
How can you tell a man is fertile?
There are no specific signs that indicate whether a man is fertile or not.
If your partner isn't getting pregnant despite having regular, unprotected sex, there is a chance you may be infertile or have poor sperm quality. But you'll require a physical exam and semen analysis to confirm this.
How is male infertility diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose infertility by taking a semen sample and sending it for analysis. They can also examine you for any genital swelling or physical abnormalities.
In addition, blood tests can check your hormone levels, which may affect your fertility.
What are the most common causes of male infertility?
Low semen quality is the most common cause of infertility in men.
You may have trouble conceiving if you have less than 15 million sperm cells per millilitre of semen – known as low sperm count or oligospermia. Poor sperm motility and abnormal sperm shape can cause infertility by making it difficult for sperm to connect with the egg cell.
Some men also produce anti-sperm antibodies (ASA), whereby the immune system destroys healthy sperm cells.
Male fertility is affected by various lifestyle and medical factors, including:
- Weight gain
- Ongoing stress
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Poor dietary choices
- Anabolic steroids
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Low testosterone
- Long-term exposure to certain chemicals and toxins
But don't worry; there are things you can do to optimize your fertility.
How can a man increase his fertility?
Lifestyle changes can improve male fertility by boosting sperm count and supporting sexual performance and libido.
1. Give up processed food in favour of a whole food diet
A highly processed diet with limited whole foods is a recipe for low sperm count. Improving your diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to produce healthy sperm cells and enhance sexual function.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- High-fibre foods like beans, whole grains, and pulses
- Wild caught fish
- Free-range chicken and lean red meat
- Free-range eggs
- Grass-fed dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
2. Maintain a healthy weight
If you're overweight or obese, there's a good chance you don't often feel in the "baby-making" mood. Carrying excess fat is disastrous for testosterone levels and sperm quality.
Getting your weight under control with a whole food, calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise is the first step to boosting your fertility.
We suggest exercises like walking, hiking, weightlifting, and HITT for burning fat. As a bonus, improving your fitness results in better sperm count, motility, and morphology3.
3. Get good quality sleep
When trying to conceive, what happens in the bedroom matters. And we mean sleep.
If you're sleep deprived, you are more likely to have low sperm count, motility, and morphology4. You may also have more anti-sperm antibodies.
7-9 hours of deep, quality sleep is essential for optimal testosterone levels, needed for healthy sperm cells and a strong libido. Prioritize restorative sleep by getting to bed by 10 pm, sleeping in a dark, cool room, and creating a relaxing wind-down routine before bed.
4. Reduce stress
Trying to conceive (with no positive pregnancy test) is incredibly stressful for most couples. But ongoing stress isn't good for any aspect of health – including sperm quality and sex drive. It's a catch-22.
You can't eliminate stress, but you can learn to handle it better with regular exercise, meditation, breathwork, quality sleep, journaling, and counselling. We also suggest taking a calming herbal supplement with adaptogenic herbs for stress resilience.
5. Take a male multivitamin and male fertility supplements
Pay special attention to supplements containing antioxidant nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, lycopene, and lutein. Antioxidants improve semen quality by protecting delicate sperm cells from oxidative damage5 from pollution, smoking, alcohol consumption, stress, and intense exercise.
Vitamin D, folic acid, zinc, coenzyme Q10, beta-sitosterol, and saw palmetto extract also support male fertility.
Check out this informational article for more tips to boost fertility.
Can male infertility be cured?
It's impossible to say if male infertility is curable in all cases. That said, sperm quality and fertility can improve with lifestyle changes and medical interventions.
The key is to have your fertility tested before you start trying for a baby – or as soon as you suspect a problem. It can save you time and stress.
What is the best age to have a baby?
Your best chance of fathering a healthy child occurs between your early 20s and mid-30s, assuming you are in good health.
However, when the right age for you to have a baby is a personal decision. You must consider how emotionally and financially ready you are for this step.
Interestingly, research has found that having a child before age 25 leads to worse health outcomes for the father6. Waiting until 30 seems healthier from an emotional, physical, and financial standpoint.
Whenever you decide is the right time, understanding your fertility puts you in the driver's seat.
This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
- Levitas et al. (2007), Relationship between age and semen parameters in men with normal sperm concentration: analysis of 6022 semen samples. Andrologia.
- Yatsenko & Turek. (2018). Reproductive genetics and the aging male. J Assist Reprod Genet.
- Rosety MÁ et al. (2017). Exercise improved semen quality and reproductive hormone levels in sedentary obese adults. Nutr Hosp.
- Liu et al. (2017). Sleep Deprivation and Late Bedtime Impair Sperm Health Through Increasing Antisperm Antibody Production. Med Sci Monit.
- Rahimlou et al. (2019). Dietary Antioxidant Intake in Relation to Semen Quality Parameters in Infertile Men: a Cross-Sectional Study. Clin Nutr Res. Young fathers face raised health risks in middle age: study. (2015). Reuters.