The rate of infertility is on the rise and is now nearly as common in men as it is in women. About 9% of American men and 10% of American women under the age of 44 report infertility problems (CDC, 2013 and Office on Women’s Health, 2019).
Since the window can seem very small to couples who start thinking about having a family later in life, many couples will turn to fertility treatments like IVF if they don’t have success conceiving a baby in the first 3-6 months of trying. Fertility treatments can be costly and put many couples in debt. The average couple will go through two in vitro fertilization cycles, bringing the total cost of IVF, including procedures and medications, between $40,000 and $60,000 (SingleCare, 2020). There are also a lot of hidden costs with fertility treatments that involve your mental health and physical health. What most couples don’t realize is that by jumping to fertility treatments, they are skipping over a cost-effective and less-stressful option.
Like many aspects of our health, both male and female fertility can be supported by improving lifestyle choices, such as minimizing environmental exposures, and using targeted nutritional support. Given that the stakes are so high for couples trying to start a family, I made a decision to shift my career focus from counseling a handful of couples at a time to assisting hundreds of couples at once, through FullWell that provides evidence-based nutrition and information to families and health practitioners.
It often surprises couples to learn that men play a game-changing role in fertility. In fact, an extensive body of research has identified a clear connection between the role of paternal health and post-fertilization development through the long-term health status of a baby. Therefore improving male fertility plays a critical role.
Three things men should avoid or limit while trying to have a baby include:
● Smoking (of any kind) and recreational drugs;
● Alcohol consumption; and
● Exposure to chemicals (including air fresheners and colognes).
Four positive actions men can take to help improve the health of their sperm include:
● Eating a diet high in antioxidants (including selenium and vitamins E and C) and omega-3 fatty acids;
● Exercising regularly;
● Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily; and
● Supplementing daily (including choline, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, and folate).
Making these critical lifestyle and nutrition changes will mitigate oxidative stress, prevent inflammation and support a healthy metabolism; thereby improving fertility, the health of the pregnancy and ultimately the health of the baby. Of course, sperm health can be affected by factors that are out of our control, but we know nutrition plays a huge role – and we can control that. If men focus on flooding their body with the right levels of nutrients, they can make a game-changing difference in the fertility process.
To help men find the right nutrients, we developed an effective, evidence-based formula for men called Vitality and Virility. This high-quality supplement is formulated with a blend of micronutrients and antioxidants designed to promote optimal male reproductive health. It includes the right amounts of 20 nutrients men should be taking daily in each supplement dose. We have also taken extra steps through third-party independent testing to ensure no harmful contaminants, including heavy metals, are present in any of our fertility supplements for both men and women.
Throughout my career as a registered dietician nutritionist, I’ve discovered that one of the biggest barriers to fertility is ignoring the man’s role, which does not begin and end at fertilization, but rather is pivotal preconception (the 3-6 month window before pregnancy), because it influences the health of the pregnancy and the baby’s long-term health via many mechanisms including epigenetics. However, also being a wife and a mother, I can certainly understand how difficult it can be to have conversations about fertility with your partner, so we have come up with some fertility conversation starters that will make sharing all this information more natural.
I invite you to learn more about the connection between fertility, nutrition and the health of you, your partner and babies at our FullWell educational “Knowledge Well” portal. Whether you want to be a mother or a father, know that each person plays an active and equal role in the fertility journey. Together, we can make healthier babies.
Ayla Barmmer, MS, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner and the founder, and CEO, of FullWell, fertility wellness and education brand. Her entire career focus has been to advance the health and empowerment of practitioners, patients and families through nutritional science, functional medicine and evidence-based holistic solutions. Barmmer launched FullWell to provide all families access to the same evidence-based, effective, high-quality prenatal and fertility supplements that she successfully uses with her own patients. Barmmer earned her undergraduate degree in dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at the University of Connecticut; a Master of Science in Health Communications from Boston University and has additional training in clinical nutrition, functional medicine, women’s health, herbal medicine and holistic and integrative therapies.