“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.
My wife and I have been trying to have another kid, but it turns out I have low sperm count. We’re not up for any crazy medical interventions just yet, and we hear fertility clinics can be pretty unpleasant. So is there anything I can do to increase my sperm count naturally?
Rochester, New York
Probably not. Sorry to say it, Gary, but alternative medicine is really a misnomer. Once a therapy is proven safe and effective, it becomes regular everyday medicine. And when a therapy has not been proven safe and effective, it doesn’t default to “alternate” or “natural” medicine—it’s a crap shoot. Your best option is to continue speaking with your doctor, let the professionals diagnose what’s causing your low sperm count, and sign up for the safest and most effective intervention.
If you insist on trying natural remedies, the Mayo Clinic lists a handful of supplements that are rumored to help with low sperm count. Vitamins A, C, D, and E, folic acid, and zinc all make the list and, as long as you’re not taking any other medications, these tend to be benign at worst.
There are, however, medically sound ways to improve your sperm count outside of the clinic. Heat decreases sperm count, so you may want to stop soaking in hot tubs or working with your laptop over your crotch. And if you sit down all day, try standing for short spells to at least give the boys some air. Studies have also shown that smoking, drinking, obesity, and stress can decrease sperm count. Working to improve your overall health is a good idea, regardless.
But trust me, Gary, fertility is tricky business and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Improve your general health and pop a few supplements if it makes you feel better, but don’t stop there. You’ll want to go at it with a team of healthcare professionals—not a few anecdotal remedies.
My child just started walking. Listen, I know kids are supposed to be curious, but he’s getting into everything in a big way, and I just can’t shake the feeling that he’s intentionally breaking rules that he must at least sort of understand. When can I start disciplining him?
Jersey City, New Jersey
I feel you, Tim. Every child is destructive, but it felt like mine were something special. My oldest once managed to get into a sealed container of ground pepper and shake it until it exploded in his face. When he first learned how to walk, anything left within reach was instantly rubble.
Anyway, the short answer is that you can discipline even very young children. The long answer is that you’ll need to take your wandering toddler’s psychological capabilities into consideration.
Discipline is essentially about teaching boundaries. Dr. Michele Borba, author of No More Misbehavin’: 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them, once told me that discipline for young children should consist of two basic steps: stopping the behavior (ideally through distraction) and replacing the behavior with something else. It doesn’t have to be harsh. If your kid is pulling the dog’s tail, stop that behavior and replace it with a reward for petting gently.
Whatever you do, try to avoiding yelling at your kid. It won’t teach him anything, and it’ll only make you both miserable. He’s ready for discipline, sure—but the right kind of discipline.
I’m usually pretty cool with marijuana, but my wife has been smoking weed while pregnant and I can’t help but harsh her vibe. Am I way out of line? It just doesn’t seem safe.
San Jose, California
This may be obvious to some, but it bears mentioning—there isn’t a whole lot you can do if your pregnant wife wants to engage in an activity that concerns you. This applies to more dangerous behaviors like drinking alcohol, and less clear risks like smoking pot. You can advise her to stop, and tell her why you’re worried, but ultimately she’ll have to make her own decision.
We still don’t know whether marijuana is dangerous during pregnancy. What we do know is that the rates of women self-reporting pot use during pregnancy have nearly doubled in the past decade—and that there are certainly risks. Isolated studies have shown that marijuana increases the risk of stillbirth and adversely affects a baby’s developing brain, harming motor skill development in toddlers and contributing to behavioral problems among young teens. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women be “encouraged to discontinue marijuana use”, including medical marijuana, use during pregnancy.
At the same time scientists hotly debate whether THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana, can even pass through the placenta to the child (recent studies suggest it’s unlikely). And there’s no particularly compelling evidence—large, case-control studies—implying harm.
So where does all that data leave you and your wife? If you have a healthy marriage, it leaves you within the realm of discussion. Tell her about your concerns, and consult with your doctor about the risks. And then, work together as a couple to make a responsible decision.