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Why Men Should Take Prenatals: Study Shows Fertility Connection

Antioxidant and fertile men

Men's nutrition matters too

My husband always wanted more of a role in baby prep — diet, exercise, something that he could do to contribute to a healthy pregnancy. My OBGYN and I used to laugh at him — silly husband, it’s me, the mom who makes the difference, right?

But recently evidence is gaining that men do have a role in predicting the health of their baby, beyond the obvious genetic transfer.

For example, last year researchers showed that, through chemical tweaks to the sperm, a man’s diet (not his genetically-coded weight, but his health habits as an adult) could affect his offspring.

And this week, a study by a group at the University of Auckland suggests that taking antioxidant supplements may improve a man’s sperm quality. In fact those who took the supplements were 4 times as likely to get their partners pregnant. Here’s more:

The scientists used data from 34 randomized controlled trials with a total of 2,876 participants. The men were assigned to either take antioxidant supplements (vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenoids, ubiquinol, folate, and zinc were used in different trials), or to take a placebo.

For the antioxidant group the odds of getting pregnant rose 4 fold, as did the odds of having a healthy, live birth. Projecting from the pregnancy numbers, the researchers called this a jump from 31 per 1,000 couples to 118 per 1,000 couples.

It’s far from being a conclusive antioxidants-boost-fertility finding, though. First of all, even though over 2,000 subjects were studied, the numbers of pregnancies and births were still low (these were all subjects being treated for fertility).

It also only shows an association between antioxidants and sperm, we don’t know that the supplements themselves caused the pregnancies.

What we do know, however, is that a man’s overall health — his diet and lifestyle habits – have a much greater impact on the success of pregnancy and the health of a baby than we’ve ever given them credit for.

I’d like to see a shift in how we view the male role in baby making — as women we’re given so many parameters, do’s and don’ts, fertility advice, and so on. Let’s spread out the responsibility a bit.

What do you think? Do men have a role in preparing to make a healthy baby?

Image: flickr

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