While old wives’ tales are aplenty with regards to fertility in females and child-bearing, the number of myths and tips regarding male fertility is also a force to be reckoned. However, it seems that men usually shun away from seeking professional advice when such problems crop up, potentially due to social stigma.
Often this gives rise to the consumption (sometimes over-dosing) of virility boosting supplements and leads to sensational news that is highlighted in the media negatively. With so much information advocating different tips for men, what then is right or wrong?
Dr Fong Yang, a fertility specialist, and also one of Singapore’s IVF clinicians who treat both female and male infertility (he has over 20 years of experience and was the first in Singapore to perform a percutaneous sperm aspiration for men!), shares some sound clinical advice for aspiring fathers out there.
1) Can supplements improve male fertility?
Dr Fong Yang: It is first crucial to know the difference between fertility and sexual performance. The two have often been seen as the same, but the underlying problems are vastly different with sometimes different consequences, despite being closely intertwined.
With regards to male fertility, where the focus is on the sperms, there are indeed antioxidants and mineral supplements that have been medically tested and evaluated to help improve the quality of sperm. These supplements usually contain Zinc, Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin C and E.
2) What are aphrodisiacs? Do they improve my sperms?
Dr Fong Yang: Aphrodisiacs are often meant to increase the libido or sex drive of a person, whether man or woman and their results can be subjective. However, while these aphrodisiacs may help increase one’s sex drive, it has no impact on a man’s fertility.
Good news is that for the men who have been eating plenty of oysters, oysters are rich in Zinc, which is an important mineral for the production of healthy sperms.
3) Can my diet and lifestyle affect my sperms?
Dr Fong Yang: Regardless of gender, a healthy lifestyle always builds the foundation for fertility. This includes eating well and exercising regularly. Habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and even high levels of stress can negatively affect a man’s sperm quality and quantity, hence for men who are planning for children, they are highly advised to cut down or better yet, to stop such habits.
Men are also encouraged to take soy products in moderation. This is because soy-related products have genistein, a compound that has female hormone properties, thus potentially affecting sperm development.
4) Does sperm quality reduce with age?
Dr Fong Yang: While men can continuously produce sperms throughout their life, as a man grows older, his sperm quality deteriorates along with his general health.
During the ageing process, the build-up of oxidative stress (commonly known as free radicals) increases, while a slow-down in cell reproduction and metabolism occurs. This, in turn, affects the quality of sperm produced in the body. Hence, while an older male can still impregnate his partner, it is still highly recommended to plan for children at a younger age, taking into consideration that female fertility declines significantly beyond a certain age.
5) Can spending time in a hot tub/onsen or driving long hours affect my sperms?
Dr Fong Yang: A man’s fertility potential can be affected by prolonged and repeated exposure to high temperatures, due to the impact of heat on sperm production and quality.
While the occasional visit to the hot tub or onsen may not cause harm, those who are trying for a baby are encouraged to skip such activities where the scrotum and testicles are exposed to high temperatures.
There are also other instances where long term practices e.g. driving as a vocation, where male taxi drivers or coach drivers sit for long periods of time and thereby increase the temperature around their testicles, affecting their sperms over time.
6) Does my choice of boxes or briefs affect my sperm quality?
Dr Fong Yang: If a man has poor sperm quality or quantity, wearing boxers may help as it would keep the nether region cooler.
However, men should take note that the simple act of wearing boxers over briefs is not a sure-fix method and should still avoid other factors that can hamper the production of good quality and quantity of sperm.
While there are indeed certain lifestyle factors that can impact male fertility, it is best to seek professional help when the situation calls for it e.g. when trying to conceive. Pregnancy is also a two-party equation, meaning both husband and wife have equally important roles to play.
Seeking help early at a younger age would often increase the options for couples who are planning for a child, as age is certainly a big determinant of fertility. For couples who are trying without success, learn more about fertility assessments and how they can help you take the next step towards parenthood.