How can I improve my chances of becoming a dad?
It may seem obvious, but you need to have regular sex (2 or 3 times a week) if you want to become a dad.
Having sex around the time your partner ovulates (when an egg is released from the ovary) will increase your chances of conceiving.
Read more about the best time to get pregnant.
There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make to improve your chances of becoming a dad.
Your testicles are outside your body because, to produce the best quality sperm, they need to be kept cooler than the rest of you (slightly below body temperature).
If you're planning a pregnancy, taking a few simple measures to keep your testicles cool may help. For example, if your job involves working in a hot environment, take regular breaks outside. If you sit still for long periods, get up and move around regularly.
Wearing tight underwear is also thought to increase testicle temperature by up to 1C. Although research has shown that tight underwear does not seem to affect sperm quality, you may want to wear loose-fitting underwear, such as boxer shorts, while trying for a baby.
Smoking can reduce fertility, so you should give up smoking if you want to become a dad.
Smoking around a newborn baby also significantly increases their chances of respiratory disease and cot death (sudden infant death syndrome).
A GP will be able to give you advice and treatment to help you quit smoking.
You can also visit the NHS Smokefree website for more help and advice about quitting smoking, or you can call the helpline on 0300 123 1044 (9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday).
Drinking alcohol excessively can affect the quality of sperm. The UK Chief Medical Officers' recommendation is to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which should be spread evenly over 3 days or more.
One unit of alcohol is the equivalent of half a pint of beer or lager, or a single pub measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) contains 1.5 units of alcohol.
Some recreational drugs are known to damage sperm quality and reduce male fertility. These include:
- anabolic steroids
You should avoid taking these types of drugs if you're trying for a baby.
Some prescription medicines and medicines you buy from a pharmacy can also affect male fertility.
For example, some chemotherapy medicines can affect fertility, either temporarily or permanently.
Long-term use of some antibiotics can also affect both sperm quality and quantity. But these effects are usually reversed 3 months after stopping the medicine.
Speak to a GP, pharmacist or other healthcare professional if you're taking a medicine and you're unsure whether it could affect your fertility.
Diet, weight and exercise
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight is essential for keeping your sperm in good condition.
The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy diet you should:
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (see 5 A Day)
- base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
- include some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts)
- eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
Being overweight (having a body mass index above 25) may affect the quality and quantity of your sperm.
Stress can affect your relationship. It can also lower your or your partner's sex drive (libido), which may reduce how often you have sex.
Severe stress may also limit sperm production. So when trying to have a baby, learning to relax and taking steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life will help.
Some people get pregnant quickly, but for others it can take longer. It's a good idea to see a GP if your partner is not pregnant after a year of trying.