Drugs Q & A

Can Men Take Prenatal Vitamins?

A dad-to-be’s health and age can affect his partner’s chances of falling pregnant, as well as the future health of the baby. Men can make sperm into their 70s and beyond, but the quality of the sperm declines as they get older. Men over 40 have fewer healthy sperm than younger men.

However, if you are 45 or older, your partner may take longer to fall pregnant and is at greater risk of miscarriage. Older dads are at slightly higher risk of having a baby with autism or a mental health condition such as schizophrenia, compared with younger fathers.

What are prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins, also known as prenatal supplements, are vitamin and mineral supplements intended to be taken before and during pregnancy and during postnatal lactation. Folic acid is the most important vitamin to take when planning a pregnancy. Folic acid is a B vitamin that cells in your body need for growing and developing.

 Taking 400 mcg of folic acid every day for at least 1 month before and during pregnancy can help lower the risk for problems with the baby’s brain and spine — called neural tube defects (NTDs). Some women, like those who have had a pregnancy affected by NTDs or with sickle cell disease, may need more folic acid. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the dose that is right for you.

Most nutrients should come from the foods you eat, but it’s also a good idea to take prenatal vitamins. Your nurse, doctor, or midwife can recommend the best vitamins for you, on top of folic acid.

Can men take prenatal vitamins?

A father’s diet and nutritional status can have a significant effect on the future health of his offspring, affecting everything from blood pressure to heart function and putting them at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research.

The lead author of a British study says the findings show that men who want to start a family should have a healthy, balanced diet from at least three months before conception.

A study from researchers at the University of Nottingham published in the Journal of Physiology shows that poor paternal diet, specifically one that is low in protein, may impact the heart health of the offspring by changing sperm, and the seminal fluid, which bathes sperm.

Human studies examining the role of paternal micronutrient supplementation are scanty. Studies indicates that a deficiency of paternal micronutrients could affect the development of offspring through epigenetic regulation. However, it is unclear at this time whether or not supplementation of vitamins such as folate in prenatal vitamins can reduce congenital anomalies in men with an otherwise well-balanced diet. A prospective randomized control trial is necessary to adequately determine the role for male prenatal vitamins. Due to the lack of conclusive evidence, experts say they cannot recommend the ubiquitous use of prenatal vitamins, in particular folate, in men attempting to plan a pregnancy with their female partner at this time.

How to Improve Sperm Health

There are several ways to increase your sperm health and enhance your chances of making babies. According to Web MD, incorporating home remedies and lifestyle changes is the way to go if you want to make your sperm thicker, healthier and stronger:

Eating the Right Diet: Your diet may play a big role in your fertility health. Some studies suggest that certain foods contribute to a decrease in sperm count, including:

  • Processed meats like hot dogs and salami. The reason behind the relationship between processed meats and sperm count isn’t yet clear, but preliminary studies show a connection.
  • Foods with trans fats. Trans fats lead to heart disease, but some studies show they also lead to reduced sperm count. Luckily, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned most trans fats in the U.S., making them easier to avoid.
  • Soy products. Soy has phytoestrogen, a compound that is similar to the hormone estrogen. Consuming too much of it can lead to lower sperm count.
  • High-fat dairy products like whole milk. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why consuming high-fat dairy products leads to lower sperm count. One theory is that it is due to steroids given to cows.
  • Foods with pesticides on them. Some pesticides act as xenoestrogens. Similar to phytoestrogens, they mimic the hormone estrogen in your body. This can lower your sperm count. Wash your produce before eating to reduce pesticide exposure.
  • Foods packaged with bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA also contains xenoestrogens.

Foods that can help to improve sperm count and motility include:

  • Fish. Doctors hypothesize that the high content of omega-3 fatty acids in fish improves sperm count.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables have higher concentrations of vitamins and antioxidants — which can protect your cells from damage — that may improve sperm count.
  • Walnuts. One study found that consuming 18 walnuts a day for 12 weeks improved sperm count.

Taking The Right Supplements: The following supplements may improve sperm count and male fertility issues:

  • D-aspartic acid (D-AA). Experts believe this amino acid is related to low sperm count because men with fertility issues have lower levels of it. Studies show that taking this acid as a supplement can raise testosterone levels. If hormonal issues are the cause of your low sperm count and motility problems, this supplement may help.
  • Vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant protects your body’s cells from oxidative stress, which leads to deterioration of cells. Oxidative stress can contribute to anything from heart disease to cancer. Studies show it may also lead to infertility. One study showed that taking 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day for two months increased sperm motility by over 90% and doubled sperm count. It also decreased the amount of damaged sperm by more than half.
  • Vitamin D. Studies show that people deficient in vitamin D are more likely than others to have low testosterone levels, which could lead to lower sperm count. One study showed that taking vitamin D for a year increased testosterone levels significantly.
  • Fenugreek. One study showed that taking Testofen — a supplement made from fenugreek extract — improved testosterone levels, sexual function, and sexual frequency. This is another supplement that may help hormonally related low sperm count and motility issues.
  • Zinc. Studies show that zinc supplementation increases both sperm count and testosterone levels, but only in those already deficient in it. However, too much zinc in semen may damage sperm, so further study is needed to determine the exact dosage and application for this use.
  • Ashwagandha. Supplementing with the herb ashwagandha daily for three months led to a more than 150% increase in sperm count in one study. The same study also showed a more than 50% increase in motility.
  • Maca root. One preliminary study showed that taking maca root powder daily for four months improved both motility and sperm count. However, more study is needed.
  • Coenzyme Q10. Early studies show that using this supplement increased sperm counts by about 17% and motility by over 50%. However, more study is needed to determine if this supplement leads to more live births or simply better sperm counts.

Quiting Smoking: Smoking causes reproductive health issues in both men and women. Smoking is related not only to lower sperm count, but also to damaged DNA in sperm. This can lead to miscarriages and other reproductive issues. Sperm takes about three months to mature. For that reason, experts recommend quitting smoking at least three months before you try to conceive.

Quitting smoking immediately improves sperm quality. After three months, the chances of increased sperm count and motility are even greater.

When to See a Doctor

You should call your doctor if you have been having unprotected sex for a year and no pregnancy has occurred yet. You may want to call your doctor sooner if you have:

  • Issues with sexual function
  • Pain or swelling in the groin area
  • A lump in the groin or testes
  • A history of past reproductive health issues
  • A recent genital surgery

Depending on the cause of your low sperm count, your doctor may recommend any of the following:

  • Surgery for blocked ejaculatory ducts
  • Medication for erectile dysfunction
  • Counseling to help with sexual dysfunction
  • Hormonal treatment
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