You and your partner have been trying to conceive for some time now, and, unfortunately, you haven’t had a positive pregnancy test yet. You’ve gone through a litany of tests that confirmed that your fertility is fine, but your sweetie’s sperm could use a little, well, boost. So if you’re considering using male fertility supplements, you should know what to realistically expect — so that you can be expecting soon.
It’s estimated that about 15% of all couples experience infertility, according to a PubMed study. Of that, men are responsible for about 20-30% of infertility cases, which is interesting, because infertility is often associated as a female issue. And just to be clear, infertility is determined by not being able to conceive after a year or more of trying, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported. Male infertility can be attributed to low sperm production, health issues such as illnesses or an injury, or abnormal sperm function or blockages, the Mayo Clinic reported. Even your work history and lifestyle choices can affect a man’s swimmers.
How Is Infertility In Men Determined?
An appointment with a urologist is the first step in determining male infertility. With a physical examination and semen analyses, doctors can determine if the sperm meets the motility, morphology, and concentration necessary to be fertile, a study found. In fact, semen analysis is able to detect nine times out of 10 if male infertility is truly an issue. A physical exam will look for potential problems not just in the penis, but in the testicles, vas deferens (which transports sperm to the urethra prior to ejaculation), and epididymis (a duct that passes sperm to the vas deferens), too.
Do Male Fertility Supplements Work?
For couples who are clamoring for a baby, a supplement might seem like a surefire way to get pregnant. But do they really work? A study tested 17 of the top male fertility supplements on the market. It was determined that only 22% of the ingredients that were used in the supplements were proven to improve overall semen health, and just 17% were shown to have a positive effect. Dr. Cindy M. Duke, MD, PhD, FACOG, a fertility expert and the Medical Director of Nevada Fertility Institute, agrees with the study’s findings. “Many of the supplements being marketed toward patients with testicles have limited data to support many of the claims being made when it comes to boosting sperm counts or claims of improved fertility (ability to conceive),” says Dr. Duke. “Supplements should not replace a complete semen analysis that looks at all parameters, such as semen volume, sperm concentration, sperm motility and sperm morphology.”
But if you want to give supplements a shot, be sure that you speak with your doctor first. “When it comes to taking any supplements, one should ensure that they’ve had a full physical exam that includes assessment of their liver and kidney function given that these two organs are critically important for proper processing of many of these supplements,” says Dr. Duke. Getting a diabetes screening test like a hemoglobin A1C and checking thyroid function testing are also important to know and optimize as undiagnosed or poorly treated diabetes and thyroid disease can directly negatively impact sperm counts and sperm function; plus some supplements can make these conditions worse.”
And then, of course, you need to know what to look for. After all, not all fertility supplements are the same. “There are a few supplements that have been noted consistently in scientific studies to have beneficial effects on male infertility,” Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN explains. “CoQ10 improves sperm count, Alpha-tocopherol improves sperm count, and carnitine has beneficial effects on sperm morphology and motility.” Additionally, Dr. Langdon says that antioxidants are excellent not just for your reducing your risk for certain diseases, but helping to boost the number, morphology, motility, and even the DNA integrity of sperm, too.
How To Boost Sperm Quality Naturally
There are some steps that men can take on their own to super charge their sperm. “In many cases, patients would better benefit from changes in their lifestyle, watching their nutrition, eliminating smoking (cigarettes, cannabis), limiting alcohol intake and reducing radiation exposure,” advises Dr. Duke. “Also, seeing a fertility specialist can help, since there are prescription meds that can be taken that can increase sperm counts.”
And if you’re looking to make your partner’s swimmers stronger and better, it can start with a good ol’ glass of water. That’s right, hydration is critical to helping sperm performance, says Dr. Duke. “Drinking enough water to stay hydrated and to ‘flush’ the system to get rid of the natural byproducts of the antioxidants is healthy and very much encouraged,” says Dr. Duke. “There should be special caution to patients with a history of kidney disease, heart failure or severe lung disease — always get clearance from your healthcare provider.”
Foods And Supplements That Can Be Added To Your Diet To Help Male Fertility
Take A Multivitamin
In addition to H2O, there are plenty of foods that your partner can consume that will support their fertility potential. And it all starts with making sure to take a daily multivitamin. “You should take a multivitamin that includes adequate supplementation of vitamin B complex, vitamin D, vitamin C, and trace minerals,” says Dr. Duke. “These are all important for healthy sperm formation.”
Eat Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants are an important part of a healthy diet, since they can neutralize free radicals in the body and help prevent illness and reduce inflammation, according to Harvard Health.
They can also help male fertility, so be sure to make your partner’s diet is antioxidant-rich. “Antioxidants help to protect the quality of the DNA being packaged into the sperm,” says Dr. Duke. “Foods that are rich in antioxidants include dark organic berries, citrus and mushrooms.”
And Your Healthy Fats, Too
There’s no denying that diet plays an important role in overall sperm health. If you’re not sure where to start, Dr. Duke offers this guidance: “Eating healthy fats like omega 6 fatty acids, organic cold-water fish, avocado oil and/or olive oil will help to promote good testicular hormone production.”
Search For Supplements That Have Key Ingredients
If you’re searching for supplements, you’ll need to know what to look for. “Most male fertility supplements currently on the market have different proprietary blends of the above ingredients,” says Dr. Duke. “Other supplements will have the above plus special branched chain amino acids such as L-carnitine which is important for sperm formation.”
Male infertility can have many root causes, including genetics, anatomical issues, hormonal changes, age, lifestyle choices — even stress can sink some sperm. So speak with a medical professional (such as a urologist or a fertility specialist) so that you can get the right supplementation that relates to your specific issue. And soon, those sperm will be swimming right to (and fertilizing) an egg.
Kumar, N., Singh, A. “Trends of male factor infertility, an important cause of infertility: A review of literature” 2015.
Khatun, A., Rahman, M., Pang, M. “Clinical assessment of the male fertility” 2018.
Kuchakulla, M., Soni, Y., Patel, P., Parekh, N., Ramasamy, R. “A Systematic Review and Evidence-based Analysis of Ingredients in Popular Male Fertility Supplements” 2020.
Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN