Since 1989, there has been a 30% decrease in sperm count in the general male population and about one in twenty men has a fertility issue, even if they live a seemingly healthy lifestyle
Male fertility is a common reason why people seek IVF/ ICSI treatment. It has been shown that infertility cases are approx. 30-40% is due to poor sperm quality. The good news is that we can improve sperm both quantity and quality with natural methods. Even if the sperm results are fine, it is still worth improving it even further, which giving the best chance of having the optimal sperm result and getting a healthy fetus.
Is it necessary to improve sperm status?
Since 1989, there has been a 30% decrease in sperm count in the general male population and about 1 in 20 men has a fertility issue, even if they live a healthy lifestyle. This may be due to the large amount of environmental toxins we are all exposed, which are known or suspected to impact sperm quality.
Age is also an important factor affect men fertility:
- A man’s sperm volume drops by 20% between ages of 30 and 50.
- The sperm motility drops 3.1% for each advancing year, whereas the percentage of sperm swimming in a purposeful manner decrease by 5%.
- The older the man, the harder he can make his female partner to conceive, and there is higher risk of miscarriage.
As an example of how sperm health affects embryo viability, consider that a non-smoking woman has been shown to have a 30% higher chance of miscarriage when her partner is a smoker than a couple who are both non-smokers. Even during an IVF treatment, when low sperm counts are not considered to be a problem as we are able to choose ’the best’ sperm, it is still of great important to improve the condition of the sperm overall to increase the likelihood of obtaining the best sperm, and therefore increase a chance to have better embryo.
How is sperm evaluated for quality?
Sperm is evaluated according to four main parameters:
- Volume (i.e. how much semen per ejaculation)
- Density/concentration/count (i.e. how many million/ml)
- Morphology (i.e. % of normal v. abnormal in shape)
- Motility (i.e. % of moving/swimming sperm)
If any of these parameters are abnormal, fertility may be compromised.
Can Acupuncture improve sperm quality?
Acupuncture has been found to improve the motility of sperm by improving its zinc:cadmium ratio. Zinc improves sperm motility whereas cadmium causes semen thicker, thereby slow down the sperm motility. Superoxide dimutase, an antioxidant which protect the cell DNA from free radicals is also positively influenced by acupuncture. Furthermore, acupuncture can increase levels of metenkephalin, an opioid which allows sperm to remain mobile for longer. It has been shown that acupuncture can also increase the percentage of sperm with normal morphology. Research has shown positive results in acupuncture on sperm morphology after only 5 weeks of treatment, 2 times a week. Improving morphology with acupuncture also increases the sucessful fertilization rate of ISCI and IVF treatment.
Where do the needles go?
Acupuncture points for improving sperm quality are not located on the genitals! Rather, points on the lower back, lower leg and abdomen are used. These points are generally painless. Any other health problems are simultaneously addressed during an acupuncture treatment to improve the whole well being. We often reccommend a course of 10 weekly treatments, 2 sessions in a week, to achieve the best result.
How can acupuncture help with male fertility?
Acupuncture aims to re-balance the body, ensuring that Qi (energy) is flowing and not getting blocked and balancing Yin and Yang.
The diagnosis of male infertility in Chinese Medicine always includes balancing the energy of the kidneys. Please note this doesn’t meant there is anything wrong with your kidneys in Western medical terms. Chinese Medicine diagnosis usually falls into 3 main categories.
1. Kidney Yin deficiency: This frequently corresponds with low sperm numbers, insufficient seminal fluid, poor viscosity, abnormal morphology. Men with Kidney Yin deficiency can often feel hot at night and have a low libido. They may overuse caffeine, alcohol or drugs. Acupuncture would aim to reinvigorate the Kidney Yin energy.
2. Kidney Yang deficiency: In this case, the semen test will show a low count, poor motility, poor endurance, seminal fluid thin and water. Men may have low motivation, lethargic, low libido. They may be working and commuting long hours, working or living in a cold environment, taking cold food and iced drinks and maybe doing too much exercise. Acupuncture would aim to reinvigorate the Kidney Yang energy.
3. Damp Heat. The sperm test will show high numbers of abnormal forms, low count and motility. Men may have painful urination, abnormal discharge from the penis, swelling, heat or discomfort in the penis. The cause for this may be some urinogenital infections that haven’t been properly treated, or prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland). They may over-use coffee, alcohol, recreational drugs, have a rich greasy diet and keep their mobile phone in a front trouser pocket. Acupuncture would aim to clear the Damp and Heat and nourish the underlying Kidney energy deficiency.
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