The Seed Bearer: Males' role in the conception and the health of offspring


The piece of the puzzle that’s missing is the role of the paternal germ line in the aetiology of genetic (and possibly epigenetic) mutations in the offspring. Most spontaneous genetic mutations arise in our species via the father’s (not the mother’s) germ line and are powerfully influenced by age and environmental/lifestyle factors, such as smoking and obesity. (Aitken, 2017)





Did you know, up to 40% of infertility concerns are with the male?


It is common for the responsibility of fertility and preconception care to fall on to the female partner of the couple. As the environment for housing, growing, birthing, and feeding the child, this has long been a way for many male partners to avoid considering the quality of sperm they are providing and revaluating their health as a holistic impact on conception and pregnancy.


A few months back, we had a zoom call with the amazing Jane Hardwicke Collings, available through my course with the Doula Training Academy. I long had the knowledge that the cellular imprint on our womb and collective reproductive system held any trauma, beliefs, ancestral lives, and the health of those before me. I really wanted to know if this impacted men in the same way. She assured me, it is the cells that change, that carry all that has happened before the moment they conceive. That the sperm carries this and implants it within the growing embryo, just as the womb holds on to it.


Considering this, shouldn’t we be more inclusive of the males’ role in conception? Shouldn’t we create an easier path for men to change lifestyle habits and commit to longevity for the sake of their own health and the health of their offspring?





I want to talk about a few ways that we can emphasise and include the male in the preconception phase, not only to improve chances of conceiving a child, but to bring a deeper level of awareness, intention and connection to one another, the unborn child, and the process of transitioning to parents.


 

Sperm takes roughly 3 months to mature and expel from the male’s body. Ideally, preconception protocols should start 3 months before wanting to conceive, as a minimum. I strongly recommend up to 2 years, as preconception as a holistic view, includes so much more than improving the quality of sperm and eggs.


Some tests you can consider doing include but are not limited to:

Screening for STIs

Genetic Screening

Sperm Analysis

Blood tests

Hormonal testing

Gut/digestive health tests

Heavy metal tests

Nutrigenomic profile


I would highly recommend finding a Naturopath you trust and respect to aid you with these tests and to journey through the preconception and pregnancy phases with you.


Getting onto a great prenatal vitamin, at least 3 months prior to conception is a helpful aid in boosting possible vitamins and minerals you are lacking. I recommend Preconception Multi For Men - NaturoBest - Male Pre Conception Vitamins. As a severe deficiency of vitamins A, D, E and Zinc have been shown to decrease male fertility, Naturobest includes all of this, among other goodness. To read more about other vitamins men should check on and why click here: Preconception Health for Men - NaturoBest.



Other factors to consider for optimising male preconception health include lifestyle factors of exercise, diet, sleep, alcohol intake, toxin exposure and stress. As well as the quality of the water you are drinking.


These are so straightforward, and something we are told even when we are not gearing up for conception. A high quality, organic and fresh diet, regular exercise, good quality and sufficient sleep and minimising stress and alcohol, drinking filtered water. Looking at your life as a whole and see where you have toxin exposure. Can you minimise it? (Cleaning products, skincare products, work environment etc). Another great point to consider is how often are you on technology? How often do you counteract this by being in nature, with no device?


This will look different for everyone, so I won’t pinpoint the parameters for each, but here are some statistics to help put it into perspective for you.


A study found the total sperm count and semen volume had a non-linear association with daily coffee intake. No changes were recorded when coffee intake was less than 550ml/day but steadily declined when consumption of more than 550ml of coffee per day was had.



Another study found that exercise modifies the sperm epigenome. Studies have also shown that sperm epigenetics is a mechanism of paternal transfer of stress. Notably, a fascinating find showed the inheritance of parental traumatic reactions via odour fear conditioning. This means that the fear response elicited by the parents (mice in this case), by an odour, was carried through their genes to their offspring, who had the same or similar reaction to that specific odour.


Overall, dietary and exercise lifestyle choices made by fathers before the conception period may alter sperm epigenetic profile, affect semen quality, and reprogram the health of future generations. This effect is likely independent, but potentially addictive, to mothers' lifestyle.’ - The preconception environment and sperm epigenetics - Marcho - 2020 - Andrology - Wiley Online Library


Beyond the physical and physiological health of the male, it is so important to also open conversations before just jumping into trying to conceive. Some things I really recommend talking about is their childhood, the way they were parented. What do they remember of this time? How do they want to parent their children?


Opening conversations about how they see the future with a child in it. Talk about the expectations of one another, of the relationship, of the household and work duties, of what values and morals you want to instil for your child. From conception to the age of 7, children build their understanding of the world by what is role modelled by their primary caretakers. What do you both want to role model for them? What do you wish was role modelled more for your 7-year-old self?


These can be confronting and profound with the realisations or feelings that may come up. If you’re both comfortable, I recommend having some preconception counselling done. Even if it is 1 session, having a third party ask these questions, and maybe questions you have not yet thought of, brings a whole new sense of direction and understanding for this experience. It is common for male partners to begin stressing about the financial requirements of beginning a family. Talk about this. Mitigate the concern by putting in some loose ideas and plans to ensure the financial stress doesn’t take away his ability to be present with the child.


I could really talk about this subject for a lot longer and feel like a specific focus could be brought on for all the different aspects of male preconception. However, wanting to avoid an excessively long blog post I will wrap it up here, right after I include some AMAZING podcast episodes on this topic (women, if you’re reading, just send the podcast and get the seed planted *like my pun?* of self-inquiry for them). We need to support our men, just as we expect their support.



Podcast Recommendations:

#126 Male Preconception with Peter Kington, by The Superfeast Podcast

Ep. 03 – Birth Prep and Experiencing a Home Birth (through the eyes of a dad), by Conversations with Kat and Tully

Conscious Conception – Our Journey Part 1 and Part 2, by Authentic Sex

#20 The Seed Bearer: Conscious Conception for Men (with Josh Fairleigh), by Men, Sex & Pleasure with Cam Fraser

The Present Father Project Podcast by Tully O’Connor


With a special interest in natural fertility, conscious conception and conscious relating through starting a family, I offer birth doula and related services to encourage more depth and awareness in your journey. Particularly also bringing light to the transition for men into parenthood, something I find severely lacking in our medical services, support services and media. I hope to encourage men to open and speak up of their wants, needs and concerns within this time. You are not 'just along for the ride', but an active participant in the future of all.

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