A common myth about infertility is that it’s the woman’s problem alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. From physical stress to mental and emotional stress to environmental toxins, many factors can degrade sperm quality, and getting the future father in excellent health can often turn an infertility situation around.
In fact, a third of all infertility cases are attributable to male factors, and another third are a result of both male and female factors. That means a male factor is involved in about half of all cases of infertility. Surprisingly, even miscarriages can have their origins in poor sperm health. Male contributions to infertility are so common and widespread that we think it’s a waste of precious time not to investigate your sperm health fully if your wife has come to us for infertility treatment.
Sperm Analysis Is Not a Complete Assessment of Fertility
You may have gotten your sperm tested — but the usual tests for sperm quality don’t tell the full story. Western medical tests aren’t specific enough to determine the actual quality of the sperm. It’s sort of like trying to determine the weather in Bangkok when you only know the humidity level.
There’s more to sperm than just motility (how quickly they swim), viscosity, morphology (the size and shape of sperm, checked by the percentage that appear normal under a microscope), concentration, and count. For instance, DNA fragmentation can significantly affect fertility (and is found in men with normal semen parameters). Sperm with fragmented DNA can many times still fertilize, or make it past the first and second stages of embryo cleavage. But once the paternal genome gets rolling and contributes to embryo development, that fragmented DNA can lead to miscarriage. DNA fragmentation levels linearly correlate with failure to fertilize, failure to implant, and miscarriages.
Why aren’t male factor issues more widely understood and addressed? Not much money in it and technology can easily overcome the issues. But if you want to have children without involving expensive and invasive technology, read on.
Testing DNA fragmentation is both expensive and controversial, so your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) may not have discussed it with you. REs often do not run DNA fragmentation tests because Western medical techniques can overcome male shortcomings by using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to force a fertilization. After ICSI they can do a preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) on the viable embryos to search for genetic abnormalities before implanting the embryos back into your partner’s womb. If that doesn’t work the next step is testicular biopsy to retrieve sperm from the testicle. Ouch! Would you rather get a needle stuck in your testicles or take some supplements, herbs, and maybe acupuncture (much, much less painful than a testicular biopsy) for three months?
A study of in vitro fertilization (IVF) found that sperm with poor morphology not only lower rates of successful fertilization and pregnancy per cycle, but also increase the risk of miscarriage even if embryo transfer was successful.1 Even intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in an IVF cycle as a way to resolve male issues can’t resolve low count, poor motility, or abnormal morphology, all of which may prevent an embryo from developing into a healthy fetus. Sperm play a known role in early embryogenesis and some evidence seems to indicate that abnormal sperm may play a role in ectopic pregnancies.
How can we help you with DNA fragmentation?
We do not have any good research data on DNA fragmentation before and after treatment with Chinese medicine and Functional Nutrition. However we do have clinical results that show healthier men who at minimum have gained a greater understanding of their family jewels and good sperm hygiene. In the majority of cases, we have men who father a child — whereas before our help they were a secondary partner in the fertility quest.
Especially as men reach their mid-thirties and develop more oxidative stress, they can have issues with sperm that standard sperm analyses won’t reveal. In addition, sperm test results can vary over time as can the testing methods in different labs. So you are as healthy as your worst sperm test, not your best. We will improve most poor to fair sperm analyses.
What We Can Do for You
Chinese medicine is rich in 2,000 years’ worth of writings about fertility. Chinese pulse reading in addition to tongue diagnosis can reveal where in your body there may be blockages creating issues in the urogenital system. In addition, Functional Medicine can provide us with tests your RE may not run including nutrient status, hormonal panels, and oxidative stress indicators. These can all help us make an educated guess about your sperm health.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and proper nutritional supplementation will not only improve the quality of your sperm, they will also improve your overall health. Whereas Western medicine does not have effective treatment to improve poor sperm quality, we use techniques that have proven successful over thousands of years and millions of pregnancies. You will have more energy, feel stronger, increase your testosterone, and balance other health issues.
Because sperm take approximately 72 days to mature, seeing the effect of treatment often takes at least three months. Sometimes two to three sperm production cycles (142-216 days) are necessary to see the maximal benefit of therapy. Not long in the grand scheme of things.
If My Sperm Is Fine, Why Do I Need Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is not just for men with sperm issues. It’s for any man who is part of a couple experiencing fertility challenges. Because sperm quality is so easily optimized with acupuncture and herbs/supplements, addressing the man’s health often leads to success, whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or with artificial reproductive techniques such as IUI and IVF. When you improve the sperm’s overall quality, the resulting “stronger sperm” can often compensate for known female issues or undiagnosed infertility. As an added benefit, acupuncture can also help relieve stress and its effect on your body, increase your sex drive, and improve your overall health and well-being.
What You Can Do
1. If you have not had a semen analysis done and have been trying to conceive for more than one year, schedule an appointment at a fertility clinic for a thorough semen analysis that includes genetic testing.
2. Eat nutrient-dense foods – meaning those with lots of nutrients but relatively few calories. Go for color and variety. Think green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, fish, stewed tomatoes, olive oil. You want vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
3. Reduce factors in your life and environment that hurt sperm production:
- Radiation and other environmental toxins
- Poor sleep
- Tight-fitting underwear
- Hot baths
4. If male factor infertility has definitely been implicated in your case, we will work together to improve your sperm quality and overall sperm health.