It’s no secret that women’s health habits influence their chances of becoming pregnant. Studies are now showing that men’s preconception health may also be important.
A recent report links consumption of caffeine to miscarriage and found that when either partner consumes more than the cups of caffeine per day pre-pregnancy, the woman will be twice as likely for an early miscarriage.
This is not the only impact the dad has on the health of his offspring. A variety of health factors influence sperm count. Things like stress, overeating, drug use, and heavy drinking also play a role.
It’s common knowledge that women who are trying to become pregnant should avoid drinking, smoking and lower their stress levels. But now we’re starting to realize that men should watch their health habits while trying to conceive as well.
The good news for men is that they’re always making new sperm, so most of the damage to their sperm can be recovered if they turn their lifestyle around. This isn’t an overnight solution though. If a man is planning to become a father it’s a good idea to clean up his health habits a few months in advance of trying to become pregnant. This will allow new healthy sperm to be produced with optimal DNA intact.
The concern goes deeper than the viability of the pregnancy. The father’s lifestyle can affect the health of their children throughout their lives. Their sperm contains molecules from these habits, which are transferred to their children through a process called epigenetics. These molecules affect the gene expression their child will have throughout their lifetime.
There are a few key lifestyle factors to keep an eye on:
- Stress – a high stress level in Dad preconception will increase their child’s susceptibility to different types of stress in their lifestyle.
- Marijuana – according to a 2015 study from the University of Copenhagen, men who smoke weed damage their sperm. Smoking more than once a week lowered sperm counts 29 percent, as compared to those who didn’t smoke or had a lower frequency.
- Diet – it might be less surprising that the father’s diet impacts the health of their children. However, recent studies have shown that the father’s eating habits can impact how well his offspring metabolize glucose and manage cholesterol. Epigenetic transmissions from the father can impact their child’s weight, affinity for alcohol, and ability to control their appetite, among other factors.
In some cases, the study findings were counterintuitive. In one study done on mice, fathers who consumed a lot of alcohol produced offspring who stayed away from alcohol.
In the end, regardless of Dad’s habits the environment the child grows up in will have a larger impact on their gene expression and habits. If you’re looking to become a father, it might be worthwhile to clean up your health habits before conception to give your child the best possible start.