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The seed bearer: males' role in the conception and the health of offspring

The piece of the puzzle that’s missing is the role of the paternal germ line in the aetiology of genetic (and possibly epigenetic) mutations in the offspring. Most spontaneous genetic mutations arise in our species via the father’s (not the mother’s) germ line and are powerfully influenced by age and environmental/lifestyle factors, such as smoking and obesity. (Aitken, 2017)

Did you know, up to 40% of infertility concerns are with the male?

It is common for the responsibility of fertility and preconception care to fall on to the female partner of the couple. As the environment for housing, growing, birthing, and feeding the child, this has long been a way for many male partners to avoid considering the quality of sperm they are contributing and re-evaluating their health as a holistic impact on conception and pregnancy. However, men are critical partners in family planning, and should be given the acknowledgement and attention placed on their responsibility to a conscious and positive experience.

There is emerging research on the impact that sperm health has on the longevity and wellbeing of offspring, as well as the impact pregnancy and becoming a father has on a male. Considering this, shouldn’t we be more inclusive of the males’ role in conception? Shouldn’t we create an easier path for men to change lifestyle habits and commit to longevity for the sake of their own health and the health of their offspring?

I want to talk about a few ways that we can emphasise and include men in the preconception phase, not only to improve chances of conceiving a child, but to bring a deeper level of awareness, intention and connection to one another, the unborn child, and the process of transitioning to parents. By doing this, we also improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, and reduce risks of post-partum relationship breakdown, mental health conditions and injury.


Sperm takes roughly 3 months to mature and expel from a male’s body. Ideally, preconception protocols should start 3 months before wanting to conceive, as a minimum. I strongly recommend up to 2 years, as preconception as a holistic view, includes so much more than improving the quality of sperm and eggs.

Some tests you can consider doing include but are not limited to:

Screening for STIs

Genetic Screening

Sperm Analysis

Blood tests

Hormonal testing

Gut/digestive health tests

Heavy metal tests

Nutrigenomic profile

I would highly recommend finding a Naturopath you trust and respect to aid you with these tests and to journey through the preconception and pregnancy phases with you.

Getting onto a great prenatal vitamin at least 3 months prior to conception (under the care of a professional) is a helpful aid in boosting vitamins and minerals you are lacking. Other factors to consider for optimizing male preconception health, and things that you can do if you have not yet met with a care provider or began testing, is assessing and improving lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, sleep, alcohol and caffeine intake, toxin exposure and mental health state. An uncommon addition I would highly recommend is also assessing the quality of water you are drinking each day. Studies have shown just after drinking filtered water for 3 weeks, a substantial decrease in individual health complaints occurred (38%, Rainer 2022).

These implementations are so straightforward, and something we are told even when we are not gearing up for conception. Take a moment to look at your lifestyle approach, even to these magnified details, and see where you can improve your health. This will look different for everyone, so I won’t pinpoint the parameters for each, but here are some statistics to help put it into perspective for you.

A study found the total sperm count and semen volume had a non-linear association with daily coffee intake. No changes were recorded when coffee intake was less than 550ml/day but steadily declined when consumption of more than 550ml of coffee per day was had (roughly 2 coffees).

Another study found that exercise modifies the sperm epigenome. Studies have also shown that sperm epigenetics is a mechanism of paternal transfer of stress. Notably, a fascinating find showed the inheritance of parental traumatic reactions via odour fear conditioning. This means that the fear response elicited by the parents (mice in this case), by an odour, was carried through their genes to their offspring, who had the same or similar reaction to that specific odour without the conditioning. Paternal stress prior to conception has been shown to alter methylation patterns and gene expression in the brain of their offspring (Rodgers et al. 2013), and increase their depressive and anxiety like behaviors (Mychasiuk et al. 1013). The dietary and exercise lifestyle choices made by fathers before the conception period may alter sperm epigenetic profile, affect semen quality, and reprogram the health of future generations. This effect is likely independent but potentially addictive to mothers' lifestyles (Marcho et al. 2020).

A study by Baldwin et al. (2018) found that first time fathers mental health and wellbeing during their transition to fatherhood is impacted. Three main factors emerged from this research, being the formation of the fatherhood identity, competing challenges of the new fatherhood role, and negative feelings and fears relating to it. The role restrictions and changes in lifestyle often resulted in fathers feeling stress, where they used denial or escape activities (such as smoking, working longer hours or listening to music) to cope. Baldwin et al. found that fathers wanted more guidance and support around the preparation for fatherhood and relationship changes.

By implementing a preconception care plan, this immediately puts men in a better position to navigate the challenges that come along with the transition into fatherhood. The time and space offered in the preconception phase support the psychological maturation towards fatherhood/paternal generativity (Kotelchuck & Lu 2017).


We've spoken a lot about the physical and physiological health of the male, but it is so important to the health of men, and directly the health of the unborn child, to address psychological preparation, readiness and state in the preconception care phase. Again, this is so unique to every couple. Opening up conversations between you both, or with mental health support services, can really support this. Having conversations about your childhood, the way you were parented, what do you fear in this transition, what are you excited for? What kind of father do you hope to be? Is there a gap between the person you are now and who you want to be as a father? How can you work towards that goal together? Or at the very least be supported in the way that matters to you. What do you expect from this transition? The relationship? Your partner as a co-parent? Do you believe in stereotypical gender roles within the family? How will that work?

These conversations can invite profound realizations and opportunities to reflect, heal or move forward with intention. In a society and culture that does not provide space for cis-gendered men to admit to vulnerability, or fear, or desire in healthy ways, these spaces can be uncomfortable if unfamiliar. That is the gift in preconception care. You are not on a time limit of 9 months to get it all out on the table before your attention is gobbled up by this adorable little newborn. You can take 6 months, 1 year, 2 years or 5 years having these conversations, practicing your communication skills, easing into the space of inviting a soul in. I want to note here, if you do have an unplanned pregnancy or find you don't have all the time you hoped for, these conversations and this preparation can still occur during pregnancy, after birth, 10 years into the child's life. It's never too late, with the exception of the genetic contribution at conception.

I could really talk about this subject for a lot longer and feel like specific focus could be highlighted for all the different aspects of male preconception. However, to avoid an excessively long blog post I will wrap it up here, right after I include some AMAZING podcast episodes on this topic. We need to support our men, just as we hope to receive their support.

Podcast Recommendations:

#126 Male Preconception with Peter Kington, by The Superfeast Podcast

Ep. 03 – Birth Prep and Experiencing a Home Birth (through the eyes of a dad), by Conversations with Kat and Tully

Conscious Conception – Our Journey Part 1 and Part 2, by Authentic Sex

#20 The Seed Bearer: Conscious Conception for Men (with Josh Fairleigh), by Men, Sex & Pleasure with Cam Fraser

The Present Father Project Podcast by Tully O’Connor

With a special interest in natural fertility, conscious conception and conscious relating through starting a family, I offer birth doula and related services to encourage more depth and awareness in your journey. Particularly also bringing light to the transition for men into parenthood, something I find severely lacking in our systematic services, support services and media. I hope to encourage men to open and speak up of their wants, needs and concerns within this time. You are not 'just along for the ride', but an active participant in the future of all.


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