Preconception Health for Men
When most people hear the term preconception health, they think about women. However, preconception health is important for men, too. There are things men can do for their health, as well as for the health of any children they may have.
1. Make a Plan and Take Action
Whether or not you’ve written them down, you’ve probably thought about your goals for having or not having children and how to achieve those goals. This is called a reproductive life plan. It’s really important to have a plan and take action. Every woman, man, and couple can benefit from having a reproductive life plan based on her, his, or their own personal values, goals, and resources.
2. Prevent and Treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Get screened and treated for any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Continue to protect yourself and your partner from STDs during pregnancy. Pregnancy does not provide a woman or the baby she is carrying any protection against STDs. The consequences of an STD can be significantly more serious, even life threatening, for a woman and her unborn baby if the woman becomes infected with an STD while pregnant. In addition, some STDs can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant) in a woman.
3. Stop Smoking, Using Certain Drugs, and Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol
Smoking, using certain drugs, and drinking too much alcohol is harmful to your health.
Secondhand smoke can cause early death and disease among children and adults who do not smoke. A pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has a 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.
In addition, drinking too much alcohol and using certain drugs can cause infertility among men. If you cannot stop drinking, smoking, or using drugs, contact your healthcare provider, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local alcohol treatment center.
Alcohol and Drug Resources:
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a treatment facility locator. This locator helps people find drug and alcohol treatment programs in their area.
Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)
Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strengths, and hopes with each other so that they can solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. Locate an A.A. program near you.
4. Be Careful Around Toxic Substances
Exposure to toxic substances and other harmful materials at work or at home, such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces, can hurt your reproductive system. Toxic substances might affect your ability to have children. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from toxic substances and other harmful materials at work and at home.
5. Prevent Infertility
Sometimes a man is born with problems that affect his sperm. Other times, problems start later in life due to illness or injury. A man’s sperm can be changed by his overall health and lifestyle. Some things that can reduce the health or number of sperm include:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Heavy alcohol use
- Some drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and anabolic steroids
- Smoking cigarettes
- Hazardous substances, including bug spray and metals, such as lead
- Diseases such as mumps, serious conditions like kidney disease, or hormone problems
- Medicines (prescription, nonprescription, and herbal products)
- Radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer
If you are concerned about fertility, talk with your doctor or another health professional.
6. Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.1 In addition, obesity among men is associated directly with increasing male infertility.2,3 People who are underweight also are at risk for serious health problems.4
The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. Staying in control of your weight contributes to good health now and as you age.
If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor or another health professional about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
7. Learn Your Family History
Collecting your family’s health history can be important for your child’s health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.
Based on your family history, your doctor might refer you for genetic counseling. Other reasons people go for genetic counseling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, or trouble getting pregnant (infertility) or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred during a previous pregnancy.
8. Get Mentally Healthy
Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health care professional about your feelings and treatment options.
9. Support Your Partner
As partners, men can encourage and support the health of women. For example, if your partner is trying to eat healthier to get ready for pregnancy you can join her and eat healthier, too. Or if your partner has a medical condition, you can encourage her to see her doctor and remind her to follow her treatment plan.
- NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online:
- Sallmen M, Sandler DP, Hoppin JA, Blair A, Baird DD. Reduced fertility among overweight and obese men. Epidemiology. 2006;17:520–523
- Frey, Keith A., et al. The clinical content of preconception care: preconception care for men. AJOG. Volume 199, Issue 6, Supplement B , Pages S389-S395, December 2
- Moos, Merry-K, et al. Healthier women, healthier reproductive outcomes: recommendations for the routine care of all women of reproductive age. AJOG Volume 199, Issue 6, Supplement B , Pages S280-S289, December 2008.