How acupuncture can help male infertility
In Europe over the last 50 years, sperm count has declined by 32.5%. Some 60% of male infertility is unexplained, and there are numerous theories about why it has reduced over time. Male infertility may be caused by environmental factors, medication intake or lifestyle choices. However, a combination of acupuncture, supplements, Chinese herbs and lifestyle changes can improve sperm health and enhance the chance of conception.
Motility and Morphology
Consultants may discuss motility, morphology or sperm count when talking about sperm and male fertility. Motility relates to the movement and ‘swimming’ of the sperm. Morphology is related to the shape of the sperm head, which affects its ability to fertilise an egg. Sperm count refers to the number of sperm per ejaculation. Together all these factors form a man’s overall fertile diagnosis.
Aggravating factors for male infertility
There isn’t one cause of male infertility; the reason for the reduction in sperm count is multifactorial. Factors that can affect sperm health include pesticides in food, hormones in meat and chemicals in various products. Also, the over-use of the oral contraceptive pill and the contamination of our drinking water with excessive levels of synthetic Estradiol may increase male infertility. Then there’s the trend of couples waiting until they are older to conceive and the increased age of potential fathers.
The risk of electronics
Another factor believed to contribute to male infertility is the over-use of electronics, such as tablets. When placed on the lap tablets can raise the temperature of the testes. Research has shown that electronic devices emit electromagnetic fields which can negatively alter processes in the body and damage cells, which may adversely affect male fertility.
There are other reasons for low fertility which are not related to environmental, medicinal or social factors. Mechanical problems include a varicocele, an enlargement of the veins around the testes, which can cause decreased sperm count and quality. Undescended testes, or obstruction to the tubes carrying sperm to and from the testes, can be caused as a result of infections such as chlamydia. Surgery or western medical treatment may be used to treat these issues, but it may not be straightforward.
Sperm DNA fragmentation & infertility
Research into fertility treatment outcomes has also shown that ‘Sperm DNA fragmentation’ is higher in men suffering from low fertility, which is caused by high levels of free oxygen radicals or ‘Oxidative stress’. Furthermore, the research found that implantation and embryo quality were both affected by sperm with DNA fragmentation. It’s worth mentioning that DNA fragmentation can still be present in men with ‘Normal’ sperm counts.
Acupuncture to assist male fertility
Studies have shown that acupuncture twice weekly for around three months can improve morphology and motility for men with unexplained infertility. When acupuncture is used alongside men undergoing fertility treatment acupuncture was shown to increase the fertilisation rate by over 20%. Such research demonstrates the effectiveness of introducing acupuncture as a way to improve sperm health and potentially increase the chance of conception.
Lifestyle changes and sperm
When undergoing a sperm test, it is essential to remember that the test is representative of a moment in time, and many factors can have a temporary effect on sperm. Factors include infections such as cold or flu, lack of sleep, poor diet and excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption, medications such as antibiotics or steroids or increased stress. A sperm cell takes around 72 days to be created. Therefore, it’s possible that by making some lifestyle changes, sperm count and quality could improve in 2-3 months.
Supplements for sperm health
Some supplements can improve sperm count and quality. These include vitamin C, E & B12, as well as selenium, zinc and beta-carotene. Supplements such as Proxeed or Profertil, which include carnitine and Q10, have been shown to improve sperm motility.
Using Chinese herbs
Typically, Chinese herbs are used in the treatment of male fertility, and it’s recommended that they are taken for at least three months. Chinese herbs such as Siberian Ginseng are known to increase sperm count. Most practitioners advise seeking treatment at least 12 weeks before wanting to conceive or starting fertility treatment. When used alongside acupuncture, lifestyle changes, vitamins and supplements, there is a good chance of drastically changing overall fertility if the cause is unexplained.
Male infertility is a common condition and may be caused by any number of reasons, some of which are easier to treat than others. By changing lifestyle and using Chinese herbs and regular acupuncture, sperm health can be improved. It’s important to implement these processes and changes as early as possible before wanting to conceive or starting fertility treatment to give the best chance of improved sperm health and conception.