Maximizing Fertility: Ejaculation Frequency, Sperm Quality, and Ovulation Timing
When it comes to maximizing fertility, it is important to have a high number of high-quality sperm that are rapidly forward-motile and of the correct shape. This requires a lot of mitochondria in the mid-region and a well-shaped oval head with a single tail.
Additionally, it is important to understand that ovulation only occurs on one day during the menstrual ovulatory cycle, with the egg available for fertilization for approximately 24 hours.
On the female side, it is important to note that sperm can survive within the vaginal duct, cervix, uterus, and female reproductive tract for anywhere from three to five days.
This means that even though the egg is only available for fertilization for a short amount of time, sperm can still survive.
This leads to the question of how often couples should have intercourse around the time of ovulation if the goal is successful fertilization of the egg and the creation of a baby.
It is important to note that the ideal circumstance is to have regular duration ovulatory cycles, as this makes it easier to time and understand when ovulation will occur.
Additionally, it is important to consider that ejaculate contains sperm of varying ages and therefore varying quality, and with each successive ejaculation in a short period of time, there will be a decrease in the concentration of sperm per milliliter of semen.
Given this information, the optimal strategy is to maximize the concentration of healthy sperm within each ejaculate, and to center that around the day of ovulation.
This typically involves abstaining from intercourse with ejaculation about two or three days out from ovulation, and then having intercourse on the day of ovulation and the following day.
There are several different ways women can track their ovulation, one of which is the temperature method.
This involves measuring intravaginal temperature and looking for changes in temperature that are consistent around the time of ovulation.
However, there is a lot of misunderstanding about this method, and it is important to consult with a OBGYN for more detailed information.
Another method women can use to track ovulation is through apps that take into account temperature information and the onset of menstruation, which marks the start of the ovulatory cycle. Regularity of cycle duration can greatly aid in predicting when one ovulates.
Additionally, there is some margin for error introduced by the fact that sperm can survive within the female reproductive tract for a period of days, reducing the need for absolute certainty about the time of ovulation.
There are a few changes that occur around the time of ovulation, including an increase in libido and changes to the reproductive pathway of the female.
Specifically, there is a change in pH, or the acidity versus basic nature of the mucosal lining near the cervix and also vaginal secretions.
This shift in pH supports sperm motility and health, making the female reproductive pathway one of the best environments for sperm to survive.
It is also important to note that some commercially available lubricants can be detrimental to sperm health, even if they do not contain spermicide.
It is important to discuss the use of lubricants with your OBGYN or urologist and your partner’s OBGYN, as certain lubricants may be more conducive to the sperm environment.
Fertility, Sleep, Stress Management, and Smoking
Getting six to eight hours of quality sleep every night is essential for balancing hormones and maintaining proper hormone regulation.
This is particularly important for fertility, as poor sleep can lead to elevated cortisol levels later in the day, which can cause a variety of problems for both males and females that can impact fertility.
One of the most important things to avoid if you want to maintain fertility is smoking.
There is strong data showing that smoking, both nicotine and cannabis, can greatly reduce fertility.
Smoking increases what are called reactive oxygen species in the egg and sperm, which can disrupt the fertilization process and lead to birth defects in the offspring.
If you are a smoker and want to conceive, the best advice is to quit smoking, as it can greatly decrease the probability of a healthy fertilization and pregnancy.
In addition to avoiding smoking, it is also important to manage stress and avoid other behaviors that can negatively impact fertility.
The website hubermanlab.com has a toolkit for sleep available for free, which includes tools and resources to help you get the right amount of quality sleep.
If you are wishing to conceive, or simply have healthy biology to be fertile or otherwise, getting enough sleep is fundamental.
Fertility, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Viral Infection
When seeking fertility treatment or sperm or egg analysis, it is common for clinics to perform an STI check, even if you are in a monogamous relationship or not sexually active.
This is because STIs, particularly chlamydia, can greatly increase the probability of miscarriage.
Chlamydia is often asymptomatic, so even if you don’t have any symptoms, it is important to get checked.
In addition to chlamydia, a viral infection can also have a negative impact on fertility.
For men, a severe viral illness in the previous 70-90 days can greatly diminish the number and quality of sperm. For women, a serious viral infection in the previous 30 days should be discussed with an OBGYN as it can have negative mental health outcomes for the offspring.
Another surprising discovery is that one in 25 men carry a copy of a mutation for cystic fibrosis. This does not cause symptoms of cystic fibrosis, but it does affect the architecture of the vas deferens, the duct through which sperm pass. This can lead to a reduced number of sperm in semen. However, this can be repaired surgically or sperm can be extracted directly from the testicle.
Maximizing Sperm Quality: Testicular Temperature & Fertility
One important factor to keep in mind is testicular temperature.
The testicles need to be about two degrees cooler than the rest of the body in order to produce healthy sperm. To maintain this temperature, men should avoid activities that can heat up the testicles such as going in hot tubs or saunas while trying to conceive.
Instead, if a sauna must be used, bring an ice pack to place on the testicles to offset the heat.
Additionally, men should avoid placing laptops or other hot devices directly on their laps and minimize the amount of time spent sitting, particularly in seats with heaters.
It’s also important to note that the size of the legs and upper thighs can play a role in testicular temperature.
Obesity or overly muscular legs can create a hotter environment for the scrotum and testicles. Therefore, it’s important to keep your legs in a comfortable position and reduce the total amount of time spent seated if you’re trying to conceive.
Mobile Phones and Male Fertility: The Effects of RF EMWs and Heat on Sperm Quality
Recent studies have shown that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and heat emitted by smartphones can have a detrimental effect on sperm quality and testosterone levels.
A paper titled “Effects of Mobile Phone Usage on Sperm Quality: No Time-Dependent Relationship on Usage. A Systematic Review and Updated Meta-Analysis” was published in 2021, which highlights the effects of radio frequency electromagnetic waves (RF EMWs) emitted by smartphones.
These waves, which range between 80 and 2,200 megahertz, can be absorbed by the human body and have potential adverse effects on the brain, heart, endocrine system, and reproductive function.
While there is no controversy about the fact that RF EMWs and EMFs can have a negative impact on biological tissues, the question remains about the intensity of these waves and their effects on the body.
The data clearly shows that carrying a smartphone in the front pocket can reduce sperm count and motility, and potentially testosterone levels.
According to a recent meta-analysis of 18 studies that included 4,280 samples, the negative effects on sperm quality were not related to phone usage time, but rather to the fact that people were using mobile phones at all.
The study found that the heat generated by mobile phones can change the temperature of the testicles, which can negatively affect sperm quality. However, it is not yet clear how this relates to fertility and healthy pregnancy.
To mitigate these negative effects, the study suggests keeping mobile phones away from the groin as much as possible. This includes not carrying them in the front or back pocket, and avoiding carrying them in a backpack.
It is important to note that while mobile phone usage may be a contributor to the decline in sperm quality and testosterone levels, other factors are likely at play as well.
Cold Exposure to Improve Sperm Quality and Testosterone Levels
Excessive heat is bad for sperm quality and one of the major causes of lowered sperm count is a condition called varicella, which is like varicose veins in the veins that innervate the testicle.
This leads to blood pooling in the testicular region, which increases the temperature and can be obstructive at the physical level.
Using deliberate cold exposure can be healthy for the sperm because it reduces the heat.
Dr. Huberman suggests using products like Snowballs, gel pack cold briefs, or taking cold showers or ice baths as ways to implement cold exposure.
He also mentions that taking a cold shower or immersion in cold water early in the day can increase testosterone levels and reduce cortisol levels later in the day.
For females listening to this, Dr. Huberman acknowledges that there is less data on the impact of cold exposure on ovaries, eggs, and fertility. However, he states that taking a cold shower or immersion in cold water for one to three minutes a day early in the day is unlikely to have negative effects and may have positive effects.
He also reminds listeners to start gradually and make sure the water is uncomfortably cold but safe to stay in.
Fertility, Exercise and Mitochondrial Health: The Importance of Regular Exercise and Intermittent Fasting
Getting 30-60 minutes of exercise per day for six to seven days per week is ideal for improving mitochondrial health and function.
Exercise also has a positive impact on other aspects of health such as sleep, mood, and stress. However, the type and amount of exercise may need to be adjusted during pregnancy.
Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, has become increasingly popular in recent years.
While there is evidence that time-restricted feeding can have positive outcomes for various aspects of organ, cellular, and tissue health, more research is needed.
For women who are seeking to conceive and have regular menstrual cycles, intermittent fasting is unlikely to disrupt fertility and the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy.
However, during pregnancy, it is important to consult with a doctor and make sure that you are eating in a way that is supportive of both you and the developing fetus.
It is important to note that there is limited data exploring the effects of time-restricted feeding during pregnancy, so it is best to avoid it unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy, Supplements, and Fertility
Testosterone production from the Leydig cells of the testes and androgen-binding protein from the Sertoli cells are both necessary for the consistent generation of sperm from puberty until a man’s death. When men take exogenous testosterone, such as through injections or creams, the testicles shut down their own testosterone production due to negative feedback loops. This results in a significant reduction in spermatogenesis and a decrease in the number of sperm produced.
However, there are ways to offset this effect, such as taking HCG or FSH, which can stimulate the testes and Sertoli cells to continue producing testosterone and supporting spermatogenesis.
In addition, clomiphene is another option. If men are on TRT or considering it and wish to have children, they should speak with a urologist and a chronologist about these options.
On the other hand, taking supplements to increase testosterone levels, such as Tonga Ali, should not disrupt ovulation or spermatogenesis. However, men should be aware that some supplements contain testosterone as an ingredient, and it’s not clear whether these can reduce or shut down endogenous testosterone production.
It’s important to listen to the episode on developing a rational guide to supplementation, which is available on the Huberman Lab website, to learn which supplements are likely to be clean and contain the ingredients that you expect.
Effects of Cannabis on Sperm Motility and Pregnancy
Cannabis use can disrupt the swimming styles of sperm, making them less likely to fertilize an egg.
The effects can be seen in the sperm generated in the 60 days after cannabis use, with a higher incidence of disrupted motility and possibly altered morphology. This is why Dr. Huberman recommends avoiding cannabis use, or at least abstaining from it in the two months prior to attempting to conceive.
It’s also worth noting that cannabis use can affect women’s fertility as well. Although there is no data on how cannabis use by women can influence the likelihood of fertilization and pregnancy, it is known that cannabis use during pregnancy can be detrimental to the health and brain development of the fetus.
On the other hand, Dr. Huberman also shares some interesting findings on the effects of cannabis as an aphrodisiac.
He explains that for about half of the human population, cannabis can increase their desire for sexual intercourse, while for the other half, it can have the opposite effect by suppressing the hormone prolactin, which can in turn suppress the dopamine, testosterone, and estrogenic systems.
Acupuncture and Fertility
The use of acupuncture to improve fertility in both men and women has been gaining more attention in recent years, thanks to a growing body of research funded by government agencies like the National Institutes of Health.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in regulating hormones, improving blood flow, and increasing sperm quality in men, and can improve the likelihood of pregnancy and the quality of outcomes in women.
One of the leading researchers in this field is Dr. Chufu Ma, a professor at Harvard Medical School, who has been exploring the mechanistic basis of acupuncture and how it affects the neural pathways that link different organs in the body.
Acupuncture works by balancing hormones, improving blood flow and the health of the ovary, and regulating FSH levels during the menstrual cycle. In men, acupuncture has been shown to improve semen volume, sperm quality, and sperm motility, and can also increase levels of testosterone.
This is different from using exogenous testosterone, as acupuncture aims to increase levels of endogenous testosterone to support healthy hormone production and sperm production.
There are a number of excellent reviews available on the use of acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy, including “Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Female Fertility: An Overview of Systematic Reviews.”
Overall, acupuncture is no longer considered fringe science and has a growing body of research supporting its effectiveness in improving fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
Fertility Supplements: L-Carnitine & Allicin, Coenzyme Q10
L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is found in various foods, particularly red meats. However, it can be difficult to consume enough L-Carnitine through food alone to see significant improvements in egg and sperm quality.
That’s why many people turn to L-Carnitine supplements, which have been shown to improve chromosomal arrangements, sperm motility, and egg morphology.
The recommended dosage is one to three grams per day, taken in capsule form. It can be taken all at once or spread out throughout the day, and should be taken for 30 to 60 days.
Allicin, which is found in garlic, can offset the increase in TMAO caused by oral L-Carnitine. TMAO can cause stiffening of the arteries, so it’s important to take 600 milligrams of garlic extract per day to offset this increase.
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is another supplement that has been shown to improve egg and sperm quality. CoQ10 levels can be measured in the blood, and should be between 0.5 and 2.5. Many people opt to supplement with CoQ10, which can be found in capsule form.
It’s important to note that these supplements should be used in conjunction with other fertility treatments and should not replace them.
They should also be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Additionally, even if you don’t have any problem getting pregnant, taking these supplements can maximize the quality of the egg and sperm, leading to healthier pregnancies and babies.
Fertility Supplements:Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Inositol for Improving Egg and Sperm Quality
Inositol, is often recommended for individuals wishing to improve egg and sperm quality due to its positive impact on insulin sensitivity.
Myoinositol, a form of inositol, is suggested to be taken at a dosage of 1-5 grams per day.
It is important to note that myoinositol can also reduce anxiety and have a slight sedative effect, so it is recommended to start with a lower dosage and work your way up.
For women, it is also suggested to include dikyroinositol, which can balance androgens and offset negative effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
The recommended dosage of dikyroinositol is 125th to 140th of the myoinositol dosage.
It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements, as they are not prescription drugs.
Dr. Huberman also emphasizes the importance of discussing any changes to one’s health regimen with a trusted healthcare professional, ideally a board certified MD.
Supplements for Hormones: Tongkat Ali, Shilajit, Zinc
There are natural supplements that can help boost fertility and improve the quality of eggs and sperm. Here we will explore: Tongkat Ali, Shilajit, and Zinc.
First on our list is Tongkat Ali, also known as Eurycoma Longifolia. This natural supplement is known for its ability to increase free testosterone levels by reducing sex hormone-binding globulin.
It can also increase luteinizing hormone, resulting in a subtle but significant increase in libido and other parameters associated with increased androgens in both males and females.
A typical dosage of Tongkat Ali is 400 milligrams per day, taken early in the day with or without food. There is no need to cycle Tongkat Ali as its effects tend to increase over time.
Next, we have Shilajit, a compound used in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies have shown that supplementing with Shilajit at a dosage of 250 milligrams twice per day can significantly improve both egg and sperm quality, as well as increase libido.
Shilajit is known to increase the levels of testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormone.
For women, it is important to note that chronic use of Shilajit throughout the ovulatory cycle may be risky and should be discussed with an OB-GYN before use.
Lastly, we have Zinc, a mineral that is essential for sperm production and the health of sperm.
Zinc plays a critical role in the formation of healthy sperm, and a deficiency can lead to low sperm count and poor sperm motility.
Men who are trying to conceive should aim for a daily intake of at least 11mg of zinc per day.
Prescription Medications in Fertility
For men, medications such as HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) can be prescribed to stimulate the production of testosterone and sperm.
These medications can be particularly helpful for men who have taken exogenous testosterone, such as through the use of performance-enhancing drugs or testosterone replacement therapy, as these can lower endogenous testosterone levels and reduce sperm counts.
In women, medications such as FSH, HCG, and testosterone can be prescribed to regulate ovulation and improve fertility.
For women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), antiandrogens and androgen blockers may be prescribed to regulate testosterone levels and improve ovulation.
Dr. Huberman also notes that there are many different hormones that can impact the ovulatory and spermatogenesis cycle, and that OBGYNs and urologists who specialize in male fertility have an excellent understanding of how to use these different hormones and medications to regulate fertility.
It’s worth noting that prescription drugs and surgical interventions for fertility can vary in terms of invasiveness and recovery time.
Some procedures are outpatient, while others require general anesthesia, and it’s important to be aware of the risks and benefits of different treatments before making a decision.
We just delved into the fascinating world of human reproduction and fertility.
We discussed the intricacies of the female and male reproductive axes, including the brain, pituitary, ovary, fallopian tubes, gonad, testes, and various ducts that play a crucial role in fertility and reproduction.
One of the key takeaways from the episode was the importance of understanding the various tools and interventions that can assist in increasing fertility, egg quality, and sperm quality.
We examined how interventions such as L-carnitine, exercise, getting enough sleep, and limiting stress can positively impact the development of eggs and sperm, specifically by influencing the role of mitochondria.
Additionally, Huberman emphasized the importance of understanding our reproductive biology, not only for those interested in conceiving, but also as a means of optimizing overall body and brain health. As I mentioned, optimizing egg and sperm health can serve as a proxy for optimizing our vitality and longevity.
It is worth noting that we only scratched the surface of the vast and complex topic of human reproduction and fertility in this episode. There are many other important themes, such as menopause, andropause, PCOS, and hormones, that we will delve into in future episodes.
- Sperm Production 101: The Anatomy and Function of Sperm
- Ovulation and the Menstrual Cycle
- Puberty: Understanding the Factors at Play
- Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Determining the Sex of Offspring
- Does Tilting the Pelvis After Intercourse for Increased Fertility?
- How Age Affects Fertility
AG1 (Athletic Greens): https://athleticgreens.com/huberman
Maui Nui: https://mauinuivenison.com/huberman
Eight Sleep: https://eightsleep.com/huberman
Supplements from Momentous https://www.livemomentous.com/huberman
Articles Effects of mobile phone usage on sperm quality – No time-dependent relationship on usage: A systematic review and updated meta-analysis: https://bit.ly/3Horf39
Acupuncture and herbal medicine for female infertility: An overview of systematic reviews: https://bit.ly/3D6QyUW
Effect of Zinc Administration on Plasma Testosterone, Dihydrotestosterone, and Sperm Count: https://bit.ly/3XThteZ
Cannabis and Male Fertility: A Systematic Review: https://bit.ly/3iXAyOi
Tanner Stages: https://bit.ly/3HnYXpo
Link Between Body Fat and the Timing of Puberty: https://bit.ly/3Wz9nH8
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