1. The good news first – have lots of sex. Forget about the big focus on your ‘fertile’ time. You need to be having sex at least every two or three days. You do not need to ‘save up the sperm’. The key thing is to make sure there is a good supply of fresh, healthy sperm at the ready. You can have a break at the end of the cycle after the most fertile time is over, but if you have a long gap (more than five days) without ejaculating, the sperm quality may start to decline, and it takes at least two ejaculations to clear out the old sperm. So if you or your partner prefer not to have intercourse during your period, just make sure you keep the supply going.
2. Give up smoking – it can affect the count, motility and shape of the sperm, but most importantly, it damages the sperm DNA and passes on a risk of cancer to your child.
3. Avoid recreational drugs, as they can affect sperm quality.
4. Keep alcohol to a minimum – try and give up the beer and keep to just an occasional glass of wine; red is best for its antioxidants. Alcohol affects sperm DNA and can increase both the time it takes to conceive and the risk of miscarriage.
5. Keep your caffeine intake down. This includes fizzy drinks such as colas. Caffeine affects sperm quality and can increase genetic damage in sperm.
6. Do not over-exercise – this can divert testosterone away from the testicles and the sperm count will drop.
7. Keep testicles cool – sperm development occurs at temperatures three to four degrees cooler than body temperature, but this does not mean keeping a bottle of iced water between your legs!
8. Eat well – include lots of vegetables and fruit in your partner’s diet and take a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.
9. Arrange a sexual health check-up.
10. Have your partner’s sperm checked at an accredited andrology lab.
11. Reduce your stress.
12. Support each other – remember you’re in this together.
Extract from 'Zita West’s Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception' by Zita West, published by Vermilion, £12.99