Male infertility accounts for 40% of couples’ infertility (40% female factor, 20% unknown) and affects 1 in 20 men. The average male sperm count is dropping 1% a year and men with extremely low sperm counts have tripled from 6% to 18% since the 1940s. Yet, surprisingly, in my experience very few men seek help while women frequently seek treatment to improve their chances of conception, even when the cause is unknown. It takes two to make a baby! It is a shame that I see so few male partners as there is much acupuncture can do to improve
- sperm count
- erectile dysfunction
- energy and endurance
There is also a great deal you can do through simple lifestyle changes to improve the quality of your sperm.
Unlike female eggs that are created when she is still in the womb herself, the life cycle of sperm is relatively short – allowing you to make significant positive changes in just a few months. Men produce 1500 sperm cells per second. 200-300 million are produced each day, though only 100 million become viable sperm. Only! Millions are released in a single ejaculation.
Sperm live only briefly and are constantly replaced – development takes only 100 days to mature and become part of the ejaculate. So, every 3 months you have entirely new sperm – can you see how making positive changes can quickly affect your fertility?
So, what can you do?
Sperm health is compromised by
- paternal age – declining semen volume, testosterone and quality of erections, increased chance of chromosomal and semen abnormalities
- sexual related problems – low libido, infrequent intercourse, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, retrograde ejaculation
- varicocele – abnormal dilation of testicular veins causing warmer testes
- seminal tubes blocked or damaged eg. through sports injury, vasectomy reversal
- previous surgery to correct undescended or twisted testicles
- fever or infection, especially prostatitis (becoming common in young men, sat all the time), epididymitis, orchitis or chlamydia
- genetic or hormonal abnormality
- antisperm antibodies caused by injury, surgery or infection – these cause sperm to stick together so they can’t swim
- environmental pollutants – endocrine disruptors such as plastics disrupt hormones due to the oestrogen-like compounds they contain which disrupt testosterone. A commonly used herbicide, Atrazine, causes impairment of sexual development in men by causing over-production of oestrogen
10 Simple Stategies to Improve Sperm Quality
- Improved nutrition
- diets high in chicken, fish, fruit and veg (preferably organic to reduce risk of environmental pollutants) are beneficial
- diets high in saturated fat and salt, especially ready meals, deplete sperm count
- include Omega 3 from organic dairy
- Optimise weight – BMI 20-25. Both high and low BMI cause poor quality sperm
- Keep testes cool – optimally 1-8 degrees below body temperature. They are cleverly designed to hang away from the body, so give them some room! 24 hours of raised temperature is enough to cause sexual malfunction in rats. Keep the temperature down by
- don’t keep phones in pockets or laptops on lap
- avoid saunas and hot tubs
- avoid prolonged sitting
- Take good quality pre-conception supplements for at least 3 months. They are essential for the micronutrients that have been stripped from the soil such as zinc
- Cordyceps mushrooms not only improve sperm quality, but also help physical endurance. These are available as a food supplement from health shops
- Stop smoking and taking recreational drugs. You will see a massive 50-800% improvement in sperm count
- Stop or reduce alcohol consumption, especially before IVF as it can reduce succes markedly. Drink a maximum of 5 units a week
- Check for STIs and low level infections
- Check any medicinal drugs you are taking are not contra-indicated for conception, as some may cause sperm abnormalities or reduced sexual function
- Have regular acupuncture treatments to improve sperm count, morphology, motility and libido!
With thanks to Jill Glover, whose lecture “It Takes Two” at the BAcC Conference 2016 informed this post