The basics of male fertility
- A sperm’s life-cycle is around 3 months. That is why when male fertility treatment involves changes in diet or environment, couples are asked to wait for 3 months before trying for pregnancy again.
- Low male fertility is usually caused by low sperm production in the testes, or a blockage in one of the reproductive tubes.
- After 70 days of development, the nearly-mature sperm leave the testes and take another 14 days or so to pass from the testicles through several tubes before combining with fluid from the seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and the bulbourethral and urethral glands, before getting ejaculated. (No wonder there’s tiredness afterwards!)
- In a healthy young male, around 100 million sperm are produced in the testes daily. This number declines with age, stress, poor health and exposure to heat, chemicals, or radiation—all of which affect male fertility.
- About 60% of semen comes from the seminal vesicles and around 30% comes from the prostate gland. The average volume of semen is 2–5 ml and the average sperm concentration is 85 million/ml.
- There are usually quite a lot of dead or abnormal sperm in a “normal” sperm sample. The WHO definition of a normal sperm sample is:
- sperm concentration is at least 20 million/ml
- total sperm count is at least 40 million
- total semen volume is at least 2ml
- at least 75% of sperms are still alive
- at least 30% of sperms are of normal shape and form
- at least 25% of sperms swim with rapid forward movement
- at least 50% of sperms swim forward, at any pace (motility)
The basics of female fertility
- The female fertility cycle or menstrual cycle usually starts when hormones released by the pituitary gland trigger the uterus to shed the nutritious padding it has built on its lining, resulting in a flow. So, the cycle starts with the first day of menstruation.
- The female fertility cycle is a bio-feedback cycle which involves the coordination of a variety of glands and hormones.
- Low female fertility is usually due to a failure to ovulate, irregularities with the uterus or fallopian tubes, or common disorders such as endometriosis.
- As hormone levels rise, your ovaries start to grow follicles. Usually one (and sometimes two) follicles will mature to the point of releasing an egg, which travels to the fallopian tube to await fertilisation.
- At this point, hormone levels change again. After around 14 days, if the egg has not been fertilised, falling hormone levels trigger the pituitary gland to repeat this cycle.
Male and female fertility diet
- Female fertility is strongly affected by ageing, so it is influenced by lifestyle factors and the “internal age” of your body.
- Men are encouraged to eat “sperm-friendly” food like vitamin supplements that include zinc, selenium, and B-group vitamins to encourage the production of good quality sperm.
- Both male and female fertility has been proven to be negatively affected by smoking, alcohol & caffeine, and trans-fatty foods such as fried fast food and sweets.
- A general healthy diet of unprocessed foods—fruits and vegetables (organic where possible), low-fat dairy and proteins, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, is likely to raise fertility for both.
- Women can raise fertility through physical exercise that raises the heart rate to recommended levels, performed at least three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
- For men, grains such as oats, rye, wheat, and buckwheat are recommended. Egg yolks and most seafood (particularly oysters and deep-sea fish) are also a good source of sperm-friendly nutrients.