Happy Friday From Béa!

Every week, our fertility experts offer practical, evidence-based suggestions for people planning a pregnancy. Our aim is to empower you with the education and expert advice you need for the smoothest possible conception experience. Our promise is to provide content that is always actionable, so that you can shape your journey at your own pace, from your own home.
Your experience can help other readers! In June, we’ll be focusing on contraception and fertility, and we’d like to hear your stories about coming off contraception in preparation for starting a family. If you’d like to share your experience, simply reply to this email and our team will get in touch.

Topic of the Week
Semen Quality: How To Get 'Em Swimming

Fertility is often seen as a female issue, but the reality is that male factor infertility is a contributing factor to almost half (specifically, 43%) of infertility cases according to the World Health Organization (source). Unfortunately, lack of information and cultural stereotypes mean sperm, and the health of the person contributing it, is too often an afterthought in fertility discussions and family planning. So let’s get into it:

What is the difference between semen and sperm?
Sperm are cells that carry genetic information and fertilise the egg. Semen is a viscous fluid that carries sperm cells, provides them with energy to help them swim,  and enables them to be more mobile. 

What is male-factor infertility?
Even though not all people providing sperm in the process of having a baby identify as males, most medical literature refers to fertility problems arising from the delivery of sperm and semen to the egg as “male-factor infertility.” Male-factor infertility includes any abnormalities uncovered in a semen analysis, like low sperm count or abnormal sperm shape (morphology), or inability to have penetrative sex or ejaculate (source).

What can you do to improve your semen quality?
Research has shown that an unhealthy lifestyle can have a negative impact on semen parameters. Changes to your lifestyle may help to improve the quality of your sperm and optimise your chances of getting pregnant.

Quit smoking
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your fertility and overall health and wellbeing. There is a link between smoking and poor sperm quality. The chemical changes in your body due to smoking can cause sperm DNA damage which can affect the chances of them fertilising an egg (source).

Reduce alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm. The current recommendation is to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which should be spread evenly over 3 days or more (source). As well as affecting sperm quality, excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on your testosterone production which may negatively affect the number of healthy sperm being produced. A 2018 study reported that testosterone levels in men with excessive alcohol consumption can be close to 25% lower than those who do not drink (source). 

Exercise & Eat Healthily
High levels of nutrients and antioxidants are vital for healthy sperm production and will improve semen quality. A fertility friendly diet includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and seafood. 
Along with a balanced diet, daily exercise can help maintain a healthy weight through increasing blood circulation and improving blood sugar regulation. Having a high BMI (body mass index) when you provide sperm for pregnancy will not affect the health of a pregnancy if you do conceive, but if your BMI is 30 or higher you are likely to have reduced fertility and a reduced likelihood of pregnancy (source). 

Not getting enough sleep can have an impact on your physical health. Getting more than 7 hours of sleep per night can help with your fertility, immune system and your mental well being. Disruptions in your sleeping pattern can have an impact on your reproductive hormones, which can affect your sperm quality (source).

Ejaculate regularly
Studies have indicated that ejaculating every 2-3 days is ideal for maintaining optimal sperm quality and health (source). 

Take supplements
Supplements can be an easy solution to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients. A multivitamin with zinc, vitamin E, selenium and CoenzymeQ10 can be beneficial for male fertility and can improve semen quality (source). Be sure to check with your GP before taking any supplements so you follow the recommended instructions. 

How can I find out if my semen is healthy?
A semen analysis is used to check the quality and quantity of the sperm. The analysis measures volume, how many sperm there are (concentration), how the sperm are moving (motility) and how they are shaped (morphology) (source). A semen analysis is a standard test for male-factor infertility, by evaluating semen and sperm cells. You can read more about semen analyses and their results in our fertility library.

What to Do Next
Should You Get a Semen Analysis?

If you have been trying for over a year (or less if the person carrying the pregnancy is over 35), or have reason to believe you may have male-factor infertility, it’s best to see your GP about arranging a semen analysis. Semen analysis is painless, non-invasive, and usually not prohibitively expensive. A medical professional will ask you to ejaculate into a sterile pot, likely in the bathroom of your doctor's office or in a fertility clinic. 


If you’re concerned about your semen quality but don’t yet qualify for NHS care: semen analysis is easily accessed privately through accredited clinics, usually for less than £300. If you do not live near a fertility clinic or the cost is prohibitive, at-home kits can be cheaper and available through pharmacies or mail order, though the NHS warns that many at-home kits may not be as reliable as they claim (source).

Further Reading
Here are the best links for your weekend sofa time.

Have a wonderful weekend. If you catch yourself thinking of us before next Friday, reply to this email and let us know what you thought of our newsletter this week.

See you next Friday!

Our newsletters are written by our fantastic medical team
Dr. Louise, MBChB
Sandy, Embryologist
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