Male sub-fertility or male factor is believed to be the major cause of infertility 40% of the time. In many cases poor sperm quality, and issues on the female partner’s side combine to create a larger fertility problem. For this reason having male and female partners co-treat is ideal.
Male infertility is often asymptomatic. A semen analysis is often the only way to detect issues, and rule out the male.
Sperm quality has three main parameters; count, motility and morphology. Sperm count, measures the quantity and concentration of the sperm. Motility, measures the ability of the sperm to swim correctly, and move forward. Morphology is given as a percentage and refers to, the sperm’s shape.
A low number of normally shaped sperm mean fewer are available to fertilize an egg. All three parameters can greatly impact fertility if they fall too low, alone, or together.
In addition to the above three parameters, a low volume of seminal fluid may cause sperm to die before reaching the egg. Seminal fluids protect the sperm from being killed in the vaginal tract.
Acupuncture has been shown in a number of studies to improve male sperm quality. Since it takes about 3 months to produce healthy new sperm, it is recommended that the male partner receive weekly acupuncture for a minimum of 10 weeks. There are often diet and lifestyle recommendations that need to be followed until pregnancy is achieved.
Low libido is a mental and physiological issue that frequently comes up for both men and women trying to conceive. The stresses of modern life, coupled with the lack of spontaneity required for baby making, often greatly diminishes the enjoyment for couples.
Libido is often linked to the levels of testosterone in both men and women. Women should experience a rise in testosterone around ovulation, with an accompanying increase in libido. Men experience a gradual decrease in testosterone as they get older.
Because many men find themselves trying to start a family later in life, they will often times seek something to help give them a “boost” during their partner’s fertile window. I find Chinese herbal medicine to be very helpful with this, and this is usually what I recommend. The nice thing about herbs is that many times they will also help the overall reproductive system.
This is certainly the case with women, because as the hormone balance is improved for better ovulation, the result is usually a stronger healthier libido.
Sometimes they are relationship dynamics at play if otherwise healthy couples are experiencing low libido. Relationship counseling is highly recommended for this.
Stress and Your Fertility
Stress can have a detrimental effect on Male and Female fertility. It can also be detriment to having a successful IVF cycle. Stress can reduce blood flow to certain parts of the body. The body will shift blood away from “non-essential organs” during times of stress. Since the ovaries are not essential for “fight or flight,” reduce blood flow can mean the ovaries are not nourished with enough blood and nutrients, reducing egg quality.
The sympathetic nervous system readies the body for fight or flight, and is often hyper-mobilized when we under stress. When under long term stress, certain hormones such as cortisol, can become over- secreted, and create an unhealthy environment in the body. Furthermore, long term stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can exhaust the kidneys and result in diminished fertility in both men and women.
Acupuncture stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms and balances the sympathetic system.
Stress can also lower the libido of couples trying to conceive, and the added pressure of having to perform during a specific fertile window can have a big impact on the male libido. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can both work wonders on improving libido, for both partners.
Stress can have a specific impact on a successful IVF cycle, and it’s recommended to take steps to reduce stress as much as possible for this. You can read about stress and IVF here (please link to stress in IVF section).
In Chinese medical though, stress has a stagnating and delaying effect on the body. Because stress creates stagnation, it can lead to delayed ovulation and delayed menstruation. This can greatly impact your fertile window, as well as lead to a much more uncomfortable period. In fact, stagnation plays a huge role in a very large number of health issues that go far beyond fertility.
In summery stress can play an important role in:
- Delaying ovulation
- Delaying the menses
- Increase in PMS and menstrual pain
- Decreased libido
- Poor blood circulation
- Decreased response in IVF cycles
- Poor dietary choices, and unhealthy eating