Seems like there’s a supplement for everything these days. So there has got to be male fertility supplement that can improve your sperm quality and improve your chance of conception, right? Well to put it to you short and sweet… not exaclty. In the best types of studies (randomized placebo controlled trials) there is conflicting evidence and no significant support to indicate male fertility supplements increased sperm health or increased incidence of pregnancy. Most male fertility supplements have a huge range of ingredients (over 90 ingredients) and since they are not regulated by the FDA (supplements do not fall under FDA scrutiny) they can be in a variety of concentrations that could actually be harmful to you.
Fertility is a very sensitive subject for a lot of couples. Many couples would do anything to get pregnant. So I want to give you the facts so you can make the best decision for you. I want you to have the knowledge you need to truly improve your fertile health.
What Factors Determine Male Fertility?
Male fertility really comes down to sperm. They are small and mighty. The four main factors that influence a viable pregnancy is the sperm count, sperm motility, sperm morphology, and level of DNA fragmentation.
Sperm count– this is important because women put up a lot barriers to the sperm getting to the mature egg. The sperm has to get through the cervix, vaginal canal, and uterus. The more sperm a man has in each ejaculation = higher likelihood of success.
Sperm motility– This is how well these guys swim. Like I said before they have to work pretty hard to get to a mature egg so we need strong swimmers to make it to their final destination.
Sperm morphology– this is the shape and the size of the sperm. The head and the tail need to be the right shape and size to penetrate the egg.
Level of DNA fragmentation– if there are high levels of DNA damage the likelihood of conception naturally or with assisted reproductive technology goes down.
Sperm take about 72 days to develop and mature so take that into consideration as you are making changes to improve your sperm health. You really need at least 3 months prior to trying to conceive to see changes in your sperm health.
What Role Do Men Play When It Comes to Infertility?
Infertility affects about 8-12% of couples worldwide. Of those couples men are the sole cause of infertility in about 20-30% of the cases but contribute to about 50% of the cases overall. So that means half of all infertility causes are at least partly the result of the male. So if male fertility supplements don’t make a difference according to research how can I increase my chances of having healthy sperm?
What ingredients in Male Fertility Supplements Have Shown a Positive Effect?
In the research that has been done only about 17% of male fertility supplement ingredients have been shown to have positive effects on male sperm. Those ingredients include:
- Zinc– Contributes to better sperm development, quality, count, and motility.
- Vitamin C – supports sperm count and motility
- CoQ10– linked to improvements in cell count, motility, and morphology
- L-Carnitine– has been linked to improvements in sperm motility.
- Vitamin E– reduces free radicals in the body and improves sperm motility and morphology.
Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are great for your overall health and can be beneficial for men’s sperm health. The problem is male fertility supplements really don’t consistently show positive results contributing to sperm health. They could just be impacting your wallet more than your health. The best way to improve sperm health is through diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors.
The supplement industry is not well regulated and the wrong dosage could actually lead to harming your fertility instead of helping. Supplemental forms of these vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are not always the best forms and often contain synthetic forms that are not as easily absorbed. The best way to get them is through your diet naturally. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new supplement if you decide male fertility supplements are right for you.
Research suggests that the best diet to improve male fertility is one that is high is healthy fats, antioxidants and carotenoids from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes fish poultry, and low fat dairy products (“View dairy as a condiment not a food group” – Kelsey Duncan, ND Fertility Confidence Method).
Foods you should avoid or limit include processed meats, full fat dairy products, alcohol, sugary sweet beverages, processed foods, simple carbohydrates (high in sugar and low in fiber and other nutrients) and trans and saturated fats.
Other Lifestyle Factors the Improve Fertility
Some simple changes in your lifestyle can also improve your fertility. You can go by the general rule of “If it’s good for me, it’s good for my sperm”:
Stop smoking: this can decrease your sperm concentration by 13-17% and also effect motility and morphology. It can also decrease the success rate of IVF and IUI. The effects can be long as you only see about a 4% reduction in risk of failure in IVF or IUI every year after you have stopped smoking.
Limit Alcohol Consumption: alcohol can have a very detrimental effect on sperm quality. Of Moderate drinkers (40-60g/day or less than 2 16oz glasses of beer) 63% of them were found to have sperm samples with more than 90% of those sperm being abnormally shaped. This can significantly decrease successful fertilization of an egg. It is really unknown what level of alcohol consumption is safe before causing significant damage to sperm. It is best to limit your consumption as much as possible or stop consuming alcohol at least 3 months prior to attempting to conceive.
Stop Using Recreational Drugs: this includes marijuana, cocaine, anabolic-androgenic steroids (male performance steroids), opiates, and methamphetamine. Regular marijuana use (greater than 1 x per week within three months) showed a significant decrease in sperm concentration. Male Performance Steroids (AAS) can result in transient azoospermia (NO SPERM) with the recovery period lasting up to 2 years.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: obesity can cause a whole host of issues when it comes to sperm health. It can cause a greater increase of DNA fragmentation creating more abnormal morphology, low ejaculate volumes, and those who undergo IVF or IUI have lower success rates. So start a regular exercise routine if you don’t already have one.
Decrease Your Stress: easier said than done. Our society is really familiar with chronic stress but taking an active role in decreasing your stress can improve sperm count, motility and reduce DNA damage. So start taking up meditation, yoga, journaling, or find a hobby that you love.
Male Fertility Supplements for me are a pass. It seems to really doesn’t do a whole lot of good. Investing in your own personal health with do more for your fertility and most likely greatly benefit your life in many other ways. It might be easier to just take a supplement, but the generic answers that we have all heard before are really your best option. Prioritize eating well, decreasing stress, maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly, and avoid risky behaviors. If those things aren’t working than you could probably benefit from seeing a fertility specialist.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.