Starting a family can be a stressful process. Fertility expert agree that, on average, 30% of the cases of infertility they see are attributed solely to the female, 30% solely to the male, 30% a combination of both partners, and in 10% of the cases the cause remains unknown. Let’s talk more about the role of male fertility factor, and how it affects the ability to conceive as well as the ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy
Male Infertility: what is it and and what causes it?
Male infertility is any health issue in a man that lowers the chances of his female partner getting pregnant.
1 in 8 couples struggle to become pregnant. As we read above, 30% of those cases are due to male infertility. In most of those cases, the problems arise with both sperm production and sperm delivery.
Male fertility depends on the man’s ability to make enough normal shaped sperm and in delivering them properly to the goal line. The egg. In many instances the man can produce enough sperm, but the quality (morphology) is poor. Other instances the ability to swim forward towards the egg is affected (motility). In rare cases the man is unable to make any sperm (azoospermia), or the sperm refuse to swim forward out of the penis but instead flow backward into the bladder (retrograde ejaculation).
Making mature, healthy sperm that can travel appropriately depends on many things. Health factors can stop cells from maturing into healthy sperm. Problems can arise that can keep the sperm from reaching the egg. Temperatures of the scrotum also greatly affect quality and health of the sperm. These are the main causes of male infertility:
- Sperm disorders
- Retrograde ejaculation
- Immunologic infertility
Sperm problems can be as a result of genetic factors (traits you are born with, chromosomal factors). Lifestyle choices can lower sperm numbers. Smoking (tobacco, marijuana, vaping). , drinking alcohol, and taking certain medications can all lower sperm parameters. Other factors include long term sickness, childhood infections, and hormone imbalances.
Male Fertility Factor and Miscarriage
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Traditionally, medical doctors have focused their attention on women when looking for causes of recurrent miscarriage. However, recent research is now shedding light on the role of men’s health and the health of their sperm. This evidence now shows sperm health can affect the health of a pregnancy and the ability to maintain it’s viability (carry to term). Multiple miscarriages may be linked to the poor quality of a man’s sperm. In many cases of abnormal sperm shape (morphology), there is defective or fragmented DNA which can lead to pregnancy but end in abnormal development and loss of embryo. Additionally, stress to the sperm head due to oxidative damage can lead to poor fertilization.
*It is important to note here, that quite often there is no obvious explanation for a miscarriage. But when couples experience Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) we should look further as to why. It has taken medicine a long time to realize sperm health has a role to play in miscarriage- and that the cause doesn’t lie solely with the women. Now that we realize both partners contribute to recurrent miscarriage, we can ensure the focus on testing is on both partners going forward to get a clearer picture of the problem and start looking for ways of ways ensuring more pregnancies result in a healthy baby.
Causes of male infertility can be hard to diagnose. Diagnosis starts with a full history and physical exam. Next steps are bloodwork and semen analysis. The semen analysis will evaluate three major categories: volume, concentration, movement (motility), and structure (morphology). This test evaluates the ability to conceive (start a pregnancy). If the semen tests shows low sperm parameters, or even no sperm, more testing may be needed. In most cases, treatment is available to turn those numbers around. Even in cases of no sperm (azoospermia), or varicocele (torsion) treatment may still be possible.
When should you seek help
We recommend both partners seek fertility testing if you’ve been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for over one year (or 6 months if over the age of 35). Men should talk to a doctor sooner if they have:
- A history of testicular, prostate or sexual problems
- Undergone treatment for cancer
- Small testicles or swelling in the scrotum
- Family history of infertility
- History of testicular injury
- Early or late puberty
- Undescended testicles
How Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help
Acupuncture, herbal formulas, supplementation along with lifestyle and nutrition changes can turn things around and improve overall semen health and volume in just a matter of 3 months! Acupuncture is a safe alternative to improving male fertility and increasing the chances of conceiving naturally or with IVF/IUI procedures just as it does for female fertility. The course of treatments depends on individualized health history, physical condition and time parameters. Whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or with the aid of Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART), we suggest a course of treatment for 12 weeks to help boost overall health as well as produce new healthy semen.
Lifestyle, and nutrition suggestions
There are a few things you can do on your own that will benefit the health of your semen
- Eat better: Reduce sugars and carbs and increase vegetables and fruit intake each day
- Sleep better: Get 7-8 hours of solid shut eye each night
- Exercise: Get up and go! Exercise can help regulate inflammation, improve mitochondrial function and increase mood.
- Stress: Stress disrupts the hypothalamic-pituitary-testis axis affecting the hormone response in the reproductive organs and negatively increases oxidative stress that impairs the health of sperm cells
- Caffeine: limit coffee to one cup per day and ditch the energy drinks. High caffeine consumption is linked to delayed conception, infertility, and insulin resistance
- Quit smoking: Whether tobacco, vape, or marijuana these things greatly reduce concentration, motility, morphology as well as increases DNA damage
- Temperature: Sperm is heat sensitive and require a temperature that is 2 degrees than your core temperature.. Increased heat affects the formation of healthy sperm. This means limiting (or removing) hot baths, saunas, tight clothing, laptops on lap and cell phones in the front pocket.
- Medications: Prescription drugs such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, testosterone derivatives can all harm sperm. Most of the time the damage is temporary and reversible
- Supplementation: Supplements can help in key areas where nutrition lacks. We regularly suggest adding a high quality probiotic, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc and CoQ10 for healthy male function
If you’re in the Jacksonville area and are struggling with fertility, we can help! Call our office at (904) 448-0046 to schedule your 15 minute consultation to get you started on a path to fertility