How Couples Can Improve Their Fertility

A concern for many couples, hormones play their part but diet is equally important for fertility issues.


This can be a concern for many couples and for women good progesterone levels are essential for conception and a healthy pregnancy as well as reducing the risk for miscarriage.

For men the issues can be rather different and I have always been impressed by the work of naturopathic doctor Andrew Weil who wrote the foreword to Victoria Maizes, M.D. book Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child. She is executive director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and has some interesting reports on male fertility.

The key role of diet

Dr. Maizes addresses male as well as female fertility issues and notes that antioxidants are especially important to male fertility. She makes the point that 80 percent of American men don’t get the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day that would provide those vital micronutrients. I would certainly hazard a guess this would apply to the majority of men outside the US as well.

We know how important antioxidants are to healthy sperm from the work of nutritionist Patrick Holford as well as a scientific review of the medical literature from the Cochrane Library. It suggested that oxidative stress may damage sperm cells and that sperm-related problems likely underlie many cases of unexplained sub fertility.

When such problems are identified, taking an oral antioxidant supplement can make a big difference: in the study, men who took the supplement were four times more likely to impregnate their partners than the control group were, and the pregnancies were five times more likely to result in a live birth.

Dr. Maizes says that while supplementing can address antioxidant shortfalls, it cannot match the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables.

The effect on male fertility

However, simply eating more fruit and vegetables may not be enough either as there are key ingredients that are often missing from the average diet. You also need to be looking at including the following regularly.

Omega-3 fatty acids: A study published in Clinical Nutrition examined the differences between 82 infertile men with reduced sperm counts and 78 normally fertile men.

Compared to the infertile participants, the fertile men had higher levels of omega-3s in both their blood and spermatozoa. Dr. Maizes writes that this provides presumptive evidence of the importance of omega-3s to male fertility.

Some animal studies have shown that when omega-3s are given to males, the essential fats concentrate in sperm. Omega-3s contribute to sperm’s fluidity, which is necessary for it to penetrate and fertilize the egg.

You can get omega-3s naturally by eating fish, particularly oily, cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring  two or three times per week.

If that’s not possible, then taking two to four grams daily of fish oil capsules providing both EPA and DHA will be helpful.

Folic acid and zinc: In a study in the Netherlands, researchers saw dramatic sperm count increases in sub fertile (and fertile) men after treatment with a combination of zinc sulfate and folic acid supplements. Sperm counts increased by 74 percent in the sub fertile men.

Fat intake: A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that sperm counts were 43 percent lower and sperm concentration 38 percent lower in men whose total fat intake was highest compared to men whose fat intake was lowest.

This association was driven by intake of saturated fats, the investigators found. Because of this effect, Dr. Maizes recommends that men’s diets contain less than 10 percent saturated fat.

Vitamin D: Dr. Maizes also notes that preliminary evidence suggests Vitamin D is important in repairing DNA damage and protecting against oxidative stress, so men should make sure their blood levels are optimal.

Helpful information:

Bioidentical progesterone is the key hormone for women, and the article below is very helpful in explaining why good levels are essential when dealing with fertility, but it looks like addressing basic dietary issues could also be very helpful for men and benefit both partners looking to boost their fertility.