Men with suboptimal sperm health may find benefits with prenatal vitamins and supplements. Here are some recommended micronutrients that have been proven to help sperm health.
Sperm health — determined by factors such as quantity, shape and motility — can have a significant impact on your chances of getting pregnant.
Quality and quantity are important when it comes to sperm. When misshapen, they are unable to move forward. And when there isn’t enough quantity, the likelihood of successful conception goes down significantly . Even after fertilisation, sperm health also plays a role in how well the placenta forms, which is a key factor for the survival and proper development of the foetus .
Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that sperm can pass on health abnormalities from the father to the offspring, due to epigenetic modifications [3, 4]. There’s a lot of science to delve into in the preceding 3 sentences, and more information can be found in the sources we have referenced.
But the main takeaway here is this: Paternal factors such as sperm health plays a much bigger role than you may think in having a healthy baby. This means that men aspiring to be fathers should take the effort to ensure their little swimmers are in the best state possible and this is where prenatal vitamins come in.
Are prenatal vitamins optional for men?
The popular perception of prenatal vitamins being only for women is changing.
A literature review concludes that men who add specific vitamins and supplements to their diet can achieve several fertility benefits. Some of the more significant ones include improvements in sperm count, motility and morphology. In some cases, greater DNA integrity was also observed .
The findings have major implications, they indicate that for men with suboptimal sperm health, consuming certain micronutrients is likely to have a beneficial effect. So, it seems that prenatal vitamins and supplements for men aren’t so optional afterall, and men who are looking to be fathers should start taking them, right?
Unfortunately, things aren’t quite so clear cut.
Some quarters of the medical establishment do not think that it is necessary for men to take prenatal supplements, citing a lack of hard evidence showing a direct effect between their use and increased pregnancy rates . Yet, in the same breath, there is sound evidence that some micronutrients, especially antioxidants, do indeed have a positive effect on sperm health .
So, what gives? Well, sperm health is impacted by many lifestyle factors, and not just diet . As such, for best results, prenatal vitamins should be taken as part of a holistic suite of lifestyle changes as recommended by your healthcare professional.
Things to know about prenatal vitamins for men
If you’re convinced that you should begin taking prenatal vitamins to increase your chances of pregnancy, there are a few things you should know.
Firstly, men’s prenatal vitamins are different from those given to women, so each party getting their own set, instead of sharing, is probably best for practical reasons.
Secondly, to achieve optimal prenatal effect, micronutrients should be taken at specific dosages. As such, a specifically formulated prenatal supplement for men is likely to be more effective than a general multivitamin, which may contain lower dosages of certain micronutrients .
Thirdly, the purpose of prenatal supplementation for men is to improve sperm health. Since it takes about 64 days, on average for the body to go through a full sperm renewal cycle, you’ll need to take prenatal vitamins for at least 2 or 3 months prior to trying seriously .
Best prenatal vitamins for men
There are many micronutrients that are touted as being beneficial for male fertility and health. To cut through the noise, we will be zooming in on the vitamins and supplements that have been scientifically proven to positively impact sperm health.
Co-enzyme Q10, or CoQ10 for short, fulfils several important roles in the body. It is critical in DNA replication and repair, and is an antioxidant that neutralises harmful radicals.
It is also shown to promote sperm health, with a 2019 study showing a clear increase in sperm concentration and motility after supplementation for three months . In the study, greater improvements were seen in oral dosages of 400mg/day when compared to 200mg/day.
A trace element that is considered essential for human health, selenium has demonstrated a beneficial effect on sperm health in fertility-challenged men.
In 2 studies involving selenium co-supplementation with other micronutrients (N-acetyl-cysteine, and Vitamin B, respectively), improvements in sperm motility, morphology and concentration were observed, Furthermore, the addition of selenium to Vitamin B improved sperm quality more than with Vitamin B alone .
Selenium is also effective when taken on its own. Infertile men taking a selenium supplement equal to 50mcg per day experienced improved sperm motility, viability, morphology, as well as increased ejaculate volume .
Another micronutrient that is helpful for sperm health is zinc.
Across several studies, supplementation with this essential trace element was observed to produce increased semen volume, sperm motility and count, and normal sperm morphology, along with an increase in testosterone levels, and normalisation of male sexual health factors. Dosages of up to 440mg/day of zinc were employed in the studies.
L-carnitine is a naturally-occuring amino acid found in red meat and dairy products, and is essential for human metabolism. It has also been found to be highly beneficial for male experiencing poor quality sperm.
In the body, L-carnitine is concentrated in the testes, and comparisons between infertile and fertile men revealed lower levels of free L-carnitine in seminal fluid in the former.
However, after supplementation with L-carnitine, improvements in sperm health were found across the board. These were accompanied by a rise in the levels of free L-carnitine. Participants in the studies were given between 2g to 3g of L-carnitine per day.
Vitamins C and E 
Vitamins C and E are among the most well-known and popular products on the shelves of health food stores. They are often promoted for their antioxidant abilities, which is also the reason why we’re interested in them as male prenatal vitamins.
Oxidative stress can damage sperm cells, resulting in suboptimal sperm quality. Men with lower levels of Vitamins C and E, among others, had an increased chance of low sperm motility. In another study, supplementation with a combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin E and CoQ10 showed improvements in sperm concentration and motility after 3 to 6 months.
Vitamin C is water soluble, while Vitamin E is fat soluble, which means you’ll find them in different sources of food. Topping up with a supplement can help you maintain healthy levels of both.
Other tips for enhancing sperm health
As we mentioned above, sperm health is not completely dependent on diet alone. Here are some other helpful tips and recommendations to help ensure your little swimmers are fighting fit for the mission of their lives (literally!)
Men who smoke are more likely to have suboptimal sperm, specifically low sperm count and abnormally shaped sperm . This is thought to arise because of the increased amount of oxidative stress brought on by the habit, which sperm is susceptible towards.
Cut back on alcohol
Your alcohol habit may be making it harder to conceive, notwithstanding any bad bar jokes about beer goggles and whatnot.
Heavy alcohol use (defined as 15 or more drinks a week, or 5 or more drinks within 2 hours) has been shown to decrease sperm motility, count and quality, while also inhibiting sperm production and decreasing testosterone levels . Alcohol use can also create sexual dysfunction and other problems in the bedroom, so time to sober up if you’re serious about starting a family or having a second kid .
Avoid environmental hazards 
It may not be apparent but certain environmental hazards can also negatively impact male fertility.
Exposure to toxins like pesticides and lead can be detrimental to sperm health, so be sure to avoid them as much as possible. Always put on proper protective gear if you must work with these substances to avoid contamination. Another environmental hazard that should be avoided for the sake of good sperm health is heat. Specifically, increased scrotal temperature can impair sperm production, which is exactly what you want to avoid when trying to conceive.
To avoid excessive heat, limit your use of hot tubs and saunas, reduce the time spent sitting down, wear loose pants, and don’t keep working with a computer on your lap for too long.