Infertility has been an issue for couples almost since mankind began, but until very recently, most of the blame was placed squarely on women's shoulders. (As if we didn't have enough to feel guilty about.) No one thought too much about how to improve male fertility. Ancient history is filled with bizarre and downright outrageous theories about infertile women; as Bustle reported, an inability to have children was often blamed on evil spirits, abnormal wombs, or simply a punishment from God for sinful behavior. And let's not even get into the stigmatization of women who had only daughters. SMH.
Only in the past couple of centuries have science and society acknowledged that infertility can be a guy's problem, too, thank you very much. In fact, as the Mayo Clinic website explained, male fertility is a complex business involving sperm quantity, quality, health, and movement. When any of these factors becomes compromised — through illness, infection, medical conditions such as diabetes, or hormonal imbalance — the little swimmers may not be healthy, plentiful, or fast enough to fertilize an egg and get the miracle of life started.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve both women's and men's chances of conceiving. If you and your partner have been TTC without success, of course seeing your doctor should be the first step. But if your guy is looking for some simple ways to boost his odds of becoming a dad, here are some super-easy (and science-backed) tips to try.
Have a glass of wine.
Or a pint of beer, or a shot of bourbon... A study published this month in the journal Andrology linked the consumption of four to seven units of alcohol weekly (approximately the equivalent of three pints of beer) to improved sperm count in men. But don't overdo; too much alcohol has also been shown to lower testosterone levels.
Munch some almonds.
Assuming there are no allergies in the picture, your guy could help boost his fertility by eating more nuts. According to Business Insider, a recent study from the Roviri i Virgili University, in Spain, found that men who ate two handfuls of almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts every day experienced an improvement in the quantity, quality, and speed of their sperm, as compared to men who went nut-free. Why the results? Possibly because nuts are rich in such nutrients as omega-3, zinc, and folate, which all have previously been shown to improve sperm count.
Take the right supplements.
Not all sperm are created equal, and infertility can result when your partner's swimmers are slow, poorly shaped, or just not numerous enough. After reviewing a number of studies on the subject, a group of Iranian scientists concluded that certain nutritional supplements can improve both the quantity and quality of sperm. Specifically, an antioxidant combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, L-carnitine, and CoQ10 appear to do the job, according to the article published in the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine. The authors added that more studies are needed to determine the optimal dosage of each antioxidant, but in the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to have your guy talk to his doctor about taking a sperm-boosting supplement.
Whether it's sitting on a mat and chanting a mantra, or finding a quiet spot in a wooded park and breathing deeply, your partner — and his sperm — can benefit from regular meditation sessions, said the Menfertility natural-medicine website. Why? Research has shown that men's testosterone levels drop when levels of the stress hormone cortisol go up. Meditation, or whatever other stress-busting habit your guy prefers, helps to reduce cortisol production.
Have seconds on tomato sauce.
Planning a pasta dinner? Make that sauce marinara. Or add some extra grape tomatoes to the side salad. A study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology showed a promising connection between lycopene, a compound found in tomatoes, and the quality and movement of sperm.
Move the laptop to the desk.
Your partner's hours of online shopping and Netflix binge-watching could be standing in the way of your becoming parents — that is, if he keeps his computer on his lap. Stanford male fertility expert Michael Eisenberg, MD, told WebMD that the heat from a laptop can raise the temperature of the scrotum significantly enough to lower a man's sperm count. In fact, anything that overheats the testicles can impact fertility, so if you're trying to conceive, your guy should also avoid hot tubs and overly steamy showers.
Ditch the pesticides.
If your spouse is the take-no-prisoners type when it comes to dandelions on the lawn or aphids in the veggie garden, it's time to look into nontoxic lawn care and gardening methods. According to the Mayo Clinic and other sources, exposure to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, can have an adverse effect on sperm count.
If your partner has been looking for a reason to quit, this might be a good motivator: Smoking has been linked to lower sperm count, according to the Mayo Clinic. Switching to e-cigs may not be a great alternative, either; a study from University College, London (as reported by reproductive endocrinologist Laurence A. Jacobs, MD in LinkedIn's site) found that men who used cinnamon and bubble gum-flavored vapes showed signs of sperm damage. Kicking the habit now will also make him healthier overall, which will be a bonus once you finally become parents.