We’ve noticed lots of buzz recently around the topic of “advanced paternal age” (or APA). For so many years, the focus has been squarely on fertility outcomes associated with women over a certain age, with the assumption that men have no real end date on their ability to successfully procreate. But research over the past few years has changed that tune!
Here are a few impacts that APA has been shown to have on fertility, pregnancy, and child health:
- Up to five times longer delay in conception for 45 year-old men than their more youthful counterparts.
- Increased risk of gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders, and placental abruption for their pregnant partner.
- Higher rates of miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm delivery.
- Many of the same risks to the infant that are of concern with older eggs.
Our goal in spelling this out isn’t to paint a picture of a dire fertility cliff for sperm-bearers over the age of 45. Instead, we want to highlight just how big of an impact sperm quality can have on the fertility process. And not just on conception – who would have thought that your sperm can influence your partner’s likelihood of developing preeclampsia, or having a preterm delivery?
The reality is that this correlation between APA and fertility and perinatal issues is likely due to a couple of factors. First and foremost, the oxidative stress that accumulates over time can affect the genetic quality of the sperm.
This can be due to poor diet, environmental toxic exposures, smoking, alcohol consumption, etc. And this can be hard to measure – someone with a “normal” semen analysis (SA) may have genetic damage to their sperm that isn’t measured on a standard SA. Secondly, hormones that influence semen production can wane with time.
While both of these issues are more pronounced in those of APA, oxidative stress and hormonal imbalance can still affect sperm quality in younger individuals as well – which can still lead to all the issues outlined above. But not to fret, here are some ways that you can help to improve your sperm quality:
Diet & exercise: Isn’t this the antidote to all of life’s ills? Most patients will do well with a Mediterranean diet and 30+ minutes of exercise 4 times a week. But some bodies require a more personalized diet plan (for example, those with insulin resistance or high levels of inflammation). Antioxidant-rich food is especially helpful for undoing some of the oxidative stress that can lead to DNA fragmentation in the sperm.
Avoid heat: …to the crotch, that is! Heat is the enemy of sperm production, so it’s critical to keep your testicles cool and uncompressed. No hot tubs or baths. Avoid laptops on the lap. Opt for boxers over briefs, loose pants over skinny jeans. And, at this cooler time of year, avoid turning on the seat heater.
Keep exposures low: Before conception, half of the (future) baby is inside the body of the sperm-bearer! We often ask our male patients how they would want their partner to treat her body when pregnant – and to apply those same rules to himself. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and huge amounts of caffeine. Wear your respirator snuggly to protect yourself from toxic fumes at work. Avoid heavily scented colognes and shampoos (choose phthalate and parabens free whenever possible!).
Come in for acupuncture: First and foremost, there will be no needles placed into your genital region…. this is an incredibly common question! But seriously, acupuncture can help to support healthy circulation, decrease stress and inflammation, improve sleep and hormone balance – all important factors for superswimmers.
Our providers can also help you pinpoint and address the aspects of lifestyle, diet, and exposures that may be interfering with your ability to conceive. By the end of your care with Flourish, you’ll hopefully have a healthy baby on the way, and you’ll also be feeling healthier and stronger – ready for the challenge of parenthood!
A wild ride of sperm quality references: