5 tips to ensure healthy sperm - Jesse Mills, MD | UCLA Health Newsroom
How to Ensure That You Have Healthy Children
As soon as you decide you’re going to have a baby, important decisions need to be made about how to care for the child’s overall health. You can begin by taking steps to facilitate your pregnancy, and making sure that your baby has the best chance possible of having a healthy childhood. Once the infant is finished with breastfeeding or formula, making food choices for them might seem like a challenge these days, considering the conflicting dietary trends that make their rounds in the news and online. You can filter out the noise by focusing on serving a healthy balance of the food groups, while reducing or eliminating the most harmful ingredients and additives. Finally, providing an environment in which your child is active physically and socially is essential for their healthy development.
Prepare to Conceive
If you want a healthy baby, you and your partner or sperm donor must ensure you have no genetic disorders that could be passed on to your child. Ask your GP or Fertility Expert about what you can be screened for.
Taking the Proper Precautions During Pregnancy
See your doctor regularly.It is important to see your family doctor or obstetrician soon after finding out that you are pregnant. The doctor will most likely give you a general exam, a blood test, urine test, pelvic exam, and pap smear. These are done to check for possible complications and deficiencies, such as cervical cancer, harmful bacteria in the blood, or low iron levels. You should then expect to see your doctor every four weeks until the seventh month of pregnancy, then every two weeks until the final month, after which you should start weekly visits.
Attend all scheduled scans.Scans, also known as ultrasounds, are used to evaluate your fetus' well-being and to diagnose potential problems. These are sometimes only used for complicated pregnancies. Sometimes more tests are needed to validate a diagnosis. Discuss any concerns and possible treatment options with your physician.
Eat a balanced diet of foods rich in nutrients.Meals featuring fruits and green leafy vegetables, then secondly whole grains, light dairy, and extra lean proteins are essential to nourish your developing child while maintaining your own health.
- Your appetite should increase during pregnancy. Compensate by eating a full breakfast, and if you feel like snacking, try fresh fruits and vegetables instead of junk food.
- For the last six months of pregnancy, your daily intake should increase by about 300 calories. And if at normal weight before pregnancy, you should also expect to gain 25 – 30 pounds.
- It is recommended that pregnant women eat 12 ounces of fish or shellfish per week. These are rich in protein, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, which can aid in the baby’s brain and eye development.
Don't eat fish that are high in mercury.The following fish contain dangerous levels of mercury, which can cause birth defects: swordfish, mackerel, grouper, Chilean sea bass, marlin, orange roughy, shark, tilefish (also known as white or golden snapper), and tuna steaks (including canned albacore).
- Recommended fish and shellfish with the lowest levels of mercury include tilapia, herring, pollock, whiting, anchovies, sardines, non-farmed salmon, shrimp, crayfish, and cooked clams and oysters.
Avoid unpasteurized drinks and cheeses.These include unpasteurized milk or juices, and unpasteurized soft cheeses such as feta, blue cheese, brie, queso fresco, and queso blanco. These can contain a harmful bacterium that causes an illness that pregnant women are vulnerable to, called listeriosis, which if passed on the the fetus can result in miscarriage, premature labor, low birth weight, or infant death, in addition to several debilitating birth defects.
Eliminate processed meats as well.Hot dogs, deli and luncheon meats, pâtés, and refrigerated smoked seafood can all contain the bacterium that causes listeriosis. Proper refrigeration can reduce the risk, so freeze or refrigerate perishables and leftovers within 2 hours of preparation.
- To ensure adequate refrigeration, make sure the freezer temperature is set at 0°F (-18°C) or below, and the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below.
Cook all meats fully.Raw or undercooked meats — especially pork, venison, and lamb — can contain a parasite calledToxoplasma gondii, which causes Toxoplasmosis. This illness, if passed on to your baby, can bring on a number of birth defects, including brain and eye impairment.
- T. gondiiis also found in unwashed fruits, vegetables, and contaminated water, so be sure to thoroughly wash all produce from the store or garden, and drink only treated water.
- If you've been working in the garden or changing a cat litter box, wash your hands afterwards to protect againstT. gondii, which can be present in cat feces.
- Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (73.9°C), ground meat should be cooked to 165°F (73.9°C), and steaks, roasts, chops should be 145°F (62.8°C).
- It is also important to defrost, chill, clean, and handle foods properly to avoid foodborne illness. (For instance, don't wash raw meat, as this can spread bacterial all over your skin and kitchen.)
Take a folic acid supplement as soon as you decide you want to have a baby.It is recommended that expectant mothers and women trying to get pregnant take 400 – 800 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily. This supplement helps to reduce the chance of neural tube defects — such as spina bifida and anencephaly — which inhibit brain and spinal cord development.
- While a balanced diet should provide most of the nutrients you and your baby need, it is difficult for pregnant women to get enough folic acid from foods alone to ensure the baby's healthy development.
Be careful when choosing a prenatal multivitamin.Most prenatal vitamins will contain the bulk of the supplemental nutrition you’ll need. Regardless, make sure you’re getting these daily recommended doses in addition to folic acid:
- 27 mg of iron
- 1000 mg of Calcium (1300 mg if younger than 18)
- 770 mcg of vitamin A (750 mcg if younger than 18)
- 2.6 mcg of Vitamin B12
Ensure you're getting enough vitamin D.Prenatal multivitamins may not contain sufficient vitamin D, in which case you should take it separately. The recommended daily dose for expecting mothers is at least 400 IU/10mcg. Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphate levels, aiding in the growth of muscles, teeth, and bones.
Watch out for high doses of vitamin A.Make sure your prenatal vitamin does not contain more than 5,000 IU of Vitamin A (1500 mcg of retinol, 3000 mcg of beta carotene).Also avoid fish liver oil supplements (cod liver oil), and liver products such as liver sausage and liver pâté. High doses of Vitamin A can cause birth defects.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.Mothers who drink or smoke during pregnancy are shown to increase the chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and giving birth to children at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
- You may have heard that small amounts of alcohol from time to time are not harmful. The fact is that studies on the safety of an occasional drink have been inconclusive, so it’s best to not take the risk--go without alcohol for the sake of your baby.
Put a limit on your caffeine intake.Drinks containing caffeine should be approached carefully, since too much has been shown to cause low birth weight and miscarriage.To help you limit your daily caffeine intake to 200 mg per day, here is a list of how much caffeine is found in the most common drinks:
- 2 ½ tablespoons of regular ground coffee to make 12 liquid ounces: 200 mg
- Black tea (brewing for three minutes): 80mg
- Green tea (brewing for three minutes): 60 mg
- Soft drinks and energy drinks should be out of the question, considering not only their high caffeine content but also their potentially harmful levels of sugar as well.
Get enough exercise.Staying active by doing simple and safe activities like walking, swimming, light aerobics, pilates, and yoga can make labor and delivery more manageable.If you weren’t exercising before pregnancy, start with 15 minutes per day, working up to 30 minutes. If you were active before, try for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
- Be sure to avoid exercising or strenuous activity in hot weather, and drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
- Discuss with your doctor what types of exercise are best for you and which exercises you should avoid as your pregnancy progresses.
- Certain exercises can help you adapt to your changing body as the pregnancy progresses. Ask a personal trainer about starting stomach-strengthening, pelvic floor, and pelvic tilt exercises.
Preparing a Healthy Diet During and After Breastfeeding
Make just a few dietary adjustments while breastfeeding.For your child’s first six months, when either breastfeeding or formula should be their only source of food, maintaining a standard balanced diet will help you produce nutritious milk for the baby. Emphasize green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins such as fish and poultry. Continue this regimen as you combine breastfeeding or formula with baby food up to the child’s second year.
- In addition, a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 mcg/400 IU is advised while breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding is strongly recommended as the exclusive source of nutrition for your child up to six months.It provides the best source of nutrition for healthy growth, aids in reducing the risk of infection, and prevents overweight.
Provide iron-rich complementary foods after six months.An infant’s natural supply of iron is typically depleted at six months, therefore it is necessary to begin adding solid foods to the diet while breastfeeding or giving formula.Fully cooked meat, fish, poultry, and meat alternatives (tofu, eggs, legumes) should be served in small, easily digestible quantities. Try for two to three servings per day from six to eight months, then three to four servings from nine to 13 months.
- Be patient when trying to get your baby to accept solid foods for the first time. It can take up to 10 to 15 tries before they get used to the change in feeding.
Prepare meals for your baby that emphasize fresh vegetables and fruits.At two years of age, your baby should be ready for exclusively solid foods. At least half of each meal should consist of fruits and vegetables, and the other half whole grains and protein. Try for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.Diets that favor fruits and vegetables offer a number of long-term health benefits:
- For one, they help control blood sugar, which in turn moderates appetite.
- They also lessen the risk of stroke and heart disease, lower blood pressure, prevent certain types of cancer, and reduce the risk of digestive and eye complications.
Include grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole-grain crackers in every meal.Whole grains contain vital minerals and B vitamins for energy, and dietary fiber for healthy digestion. At least half the grains should be whole grain, and should be listed first (or second after water) on the ingredients list. Mix in other whole grains such as wild rice, quinoa, oats, millet, sorghum, and buckwheat.
Serve lean proteins such as poultry, fish, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy, and eggs.Cut down on red meats (beef, lamb, pork) and especially processed meats such as bacon, salami, ham, hot dogs, and sausages — all of which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.Protein helps to form healthy body tissues, and is the building block for hemoglobin and enzymes.
- Experts recommend 8g of daily protein consumption for every 20 pounds of body weight. For a 70-pound child, that calculates to 28g of protein per day.
Increase dairy servings as the baby grows.Recommended servings are as follows: 2 cups at Two to three years, 2 1/2 cups from four to eight years, and 3 cups from nine to 18 years (1 cup of milk or yogurt = 1 1/2 ounces of unprocessed cheese). Emphasize low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt. Foods sometimes considered as dairy, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are high in saturated fats and should not be eaten.
- Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, which helps bone growth. You can also substitute non-dairy calcium sources such as fortified soy milk, collards, bok choy, kale, and white and navy beans.
Restricting Harmful Ingredients
Reduce saturated fats, and cut out trans fats.Diets high in saturated fats and trans fats are a major contributor to childhood obesity. Fats are a necessary component of a healthy diet, but it’s important to distinguish the good from the bad. Favor unsaturated fats from fish, avocados, snd nuts as well as sunflower, canola and olive oils. Reduce saturated fats from butter, palm oil, cheese, cream, ghee, lard, and fatty meats. Do your best to avoid altogether processed foods high in trans fat (partially hydrogenated oil), namely most fast food, packaged snack food, fried food, pizza, pastries, spreads, and margarine.
Try to do without added sugars, or sugars not occurring naturally.Non-natural sugars added to soft drinks, many juices, most processed sweets, and processed foods in general are known to be major contributors to childhood obesity and diabetes.
- Added sugars tend to be found most commonly in processed snack foods. If you’re serving or packing a snack for your child, go for fresh fruits, nuts, and raw vegetables instead of canned drinks with added sugar or potato chips, pretzels, and similar packaged foods.
Work on reducing sodium and seek out foods high in potassium.Most people consume about twice as much sodium (9-12g) than recommended daily doses (5g), and children are particularly vulnerable if they have a diet high in processed snacks and meats. Excessive sodium intake combined with insufficient potassium levels elevates blood pressure. Increase your child’s potassium intake by serving plenty of vegetables, fruits (especially avocados and bananas) and nuts, and avoid processed meats such as cold cuts, bacon, plus salty snacks and cheeses.
Choose carbohydrates with a low-to-medium glycemic load.Foods rated as having a high glycemic load cause unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which have been associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Foods with a low-to-medium glycemic load include whole grain bread, wheat tortillas, muesli, oatmeal, skim milk, apples, pears, watermelon, cashews, peanuts, green peas, carrots, and parsnips.
Fostering Physical and Social Development
Make sure infants and toddlers progressively get more exercise.Before they crawl, they can benefit from lying on the floor and kicking their legs. To exercise the arms, interact with them by practicing grasping, pushing, and pulling. Once they're crawling, provide an extensive space for them in the home, or on a grassy surface outdoors, while ensuring the surfaces are free of sharp objects.
- As your child begins crawling, walking, and exploring their world, you will need to take steps to child-proof your home so that your child is not unintentionally injured. This may include putting safety latches on cabinet doors, covering outlets, putting up safety gates, putting bumpers on sharp corners, securing bookcases to the walls, and so on.Child-proofing will give your child a safe space to develop.
Keep them moving once they’re walking.Encourage your child to walk with you as much as possible, instead of overusing the stroller. Allow them to take part in routine household tasks and activities such as setting the table, unpacking groceries, sorting laundry, walking the dog, and raking leaves. Frequent trips to parks with a playground will allow them to exercise all muscles in the body, and give them a chance to begin friendships with their peers.
Involve older children in aerobic and strengthening activities.From five to 11 years, children are physically developed enough to benefit from a combination of aerobic (walking, basketball, soccer) and strengthening (climbing on playground equipment, snow shoveling) activities. Try to make sure they get at least one hour of moderate- to high-activity exercise per day.
Make an effort to limit screen time to two hours per day.To help cut down on screen time, simply remove television sets and computers from the child’s bedroom. Restricting the time your child spends watching tv, sitting at the computer, and using mobile devices is a good way to make more time for exercise and social interaction.
- After-school sports or other organized activities are an excellent way to schedule in most of the recommended daily exercise time.
Encourage play and social interaction.Trips to the playground, after-school activities, and clubs are just a few ways to put your child into contact with others their own age. From three years forward children should increasingly interact with their peers and begin forming social bonds. And emotional development should go hand-in-hand with social development, so the more your child interacts, the better they’ll be able to handle emotional challenges.
Teach fundamental social skills.By giving direct instructions and offering feedback, you can help your child adopt the building blocks for getting along in social situations. Teach them the importance of eye contact, listening, sharing, saying “please” and “thank you,” greetings, taking turns, cooperating, being inclusive, showing affection, apologizing, forgiving, and empathy.
Schedule regular check-ups with pediatricians and dentists.Starting at birth, your child will need regular wellness check-ups with their family doctor or pediatrician. The doctor will be able to make sure your child is hitting their developmental milestones, give vaccines, and address any health concerns you may have.In addition, your child should start visiting a dentist when their first tooth appears, then at least every six months for a checkup to ensure their mouths and teeth are healthy.
- When pregnant, make a note to avoid hot tubs and saunas, especially during the first trimester. Too much time spent in these can raise your body temperature and potentially harm your baby.
- To get your baby's dental health off to a good start, a visit with the dentist is recommended within six months of noticing the first tooth, and no later than the baby's first birthday.
- For your toddler's breakfast, try a homemade fruit salad with bananas, pineapple, apples, melons, and berries, or add these to whole grain cereal. Add broccoli, bell peppers, and leafy vegetables to scrambled eggs or omelets. For lunch, pack an apple or banana, make a whole grain tortilla wrap with raw vegetables, and serve a homemade soup with carrots, corn, onions, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower. At dinner, steam leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collards, as well as carrots peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts to complement grains and protein.
- For snacks, in an effort to avoid high levels of fat, calories, sugar, and salt, give your child a medium-size apple or banana, one cup of blueberries, grapes, carrots, bell peppers, or broccoli.
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