While women are born with all the eggs they’ll have in their lifetime, men produce millions of sperm every day.
If you are struggling to conceive, the sperm regeneration cycle should be considered as a contributing factor. There are several simple lifestyle changes you can make which will improve the health of your sperm, increasing your chances of conception.
What is the sperm production cycle?
On average, the sperm regeneration cycle takes around 74 days, although this can vary from man to man. For some men, the full sperm regeneration cycle can take 2.5 – 3 months.
Sperm is produced in the seminiferous tubules within the testes. In this initial formation stage, sperm is unable to swim or fertilise an egg.
Once the heads and tails of the sperm have fully developed, the cells then move through the male reproductive tract to the epididymis to further mature. Once the sperm has matured, they combine with seminal fluid and other factors prior to ejaculation.
Why you should wait for sperm to fully mature before trying to conceive
If you are struggling to conceive, waiting for your sperm regeneration cycle to complete may improve your chances of conception.
Mature, healthy sperm has a higher likelihood of fertilising an egg, with the best chance of survival for the embryo. Defective or unhealthy sperm can lead to an embryo with chromosomal abnormalities.
Why is healthy sperm essential?
Sperm is a cell, similar to other cells in the body, so any nutrients or toxins that you put into your body will impact the health and quality of your sperm.
Ways to improve the health of your sperm
From quitting smoking and giving up alcohol and caffeine to increasing the amount you exercise and improving your diet, there are several simple lifestyle changes you can make which can improve the health of your sperm and boost your chances of conception.
If you are eating well, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes, your sperm is much more likely to be healthy.
Even when a semen analysis shows apparently normal sperm, there may often be damage to the DNA within the sperm, which is known as DNA fragmentation. This is usually caused by environmental factors such as toxins found in the food we eat or in the air we breathe.
An abnormal semen analysis – whether due to a low sperm count, poor sperm motility or poor sperm morphology – is likely to contain sperm with a high level of DNA fragmentation.
If, having made changes to your daily lifestyle, you are still struggling to conceive a fertility supplement may be beneficial, as supplements can reduce DNA fragmentation or the snipping-up of DNA in the sperm. Indeed it may be sensible to take a supplement in order to help provide the best DNA in your sperm, even if you have no specific fertility problem.
Supplements including strong antioxidants (products containing vitamin C, vitamin E, Selenium, CoQ10) can prevent DNA fragmentation, but they can cause a different type of DNA damage called decondensation (the unravelling of DNA in the sperm head). Ensure any supplements you take are high quality.
The supplements you choose should be combined with a healthy diet and can substantially improve sperm morphology. Supplements may also improve your chances of conception through assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).
It’s also important to bear in mind that too much heat in the testicular region can affect the health of your sperm.
The optimum temperature for healthy sperm production is around 1 – 2°C below regular body temperature, so try to avoid things like:
- Working with your laptop on your lap
- Hot tubs
- Tight fitting clothing
- Sitting for long periods of time
Once you have made a lifestyle change, altered your diet or started taking a fertility supplement, it can take up to 3 months for the healthier sperm to be generated through the sperm regeneration cycle, although the average regeneration cycle typically lasts for 74 days.
It makes sense to then continue with this change until you have successfully conceived.