Preconception Health and Health Care: For Men

male-issues-preconceptionWhen 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 own health, as well as for the women and children in their lives.

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 “Street” Drugs, and Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol

Smoking, using “street” drugs, and drinking too much alcohol (binge drinking) 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 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birthweight than women who are not exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.

In addition, drinking too much alcohol and using “street” drugs can cause infertility among men. If you cannot stop drinking, smoking, or using drugs―get help! Contact your doctor or local health centre.

4. Be Careful About 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 the reproductive systems of men and women. They can make it more difficult for a couple to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to certain diseases.

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 “street” drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and anabolic steroids
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • 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. In addition, obesity among men is associated directly with increasing male infertility.People who are underweight also are at risk for serious health problems.

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 counselling. Other reasons people go for genetic counselling 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.

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