It Takes Two: The Male Factor in Fertility
40% of sub-fertility is due to male factor.
The bad news is that the average male sperm count in our population has dropped considerably (by 45% between 1940 and 1990) while the number of men with very low sperm count has trebled. There has also been an increase in abnormal forms. Problems are caused by environmental pollution with solvents, pesticides and oestrogen-like substances. The hormonal balance can also be disrupted by lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking, bad diet, stress or lack of sleep.
The good news is that in most cases as a man you can make a difference relatively easily. Unlike women, who are born with all their eggs, men produce fresh sperm from scratch over approximately three months. Hence most men can have a bigger impact on their fertility by working on lifestyle factors and addressing possible imbalances.
If you are the male partner in a couple trying for a baby, here’s what you can do:
- Get tested. Are you wasting precious time while your female partner has treatment? A sperm test will help you understand whether there is anything for you to work on as well and give you a baseline to monitor against – three months later, once you’ve implemented the necessary lifestyle changes. Your seminal fluid analysis report can also help with your Chinese medical diagnosis, so if you are having acupuncture bring any test results with you. Relevant are also your past medical history and any medication you may be on.
- ‘Detox’, for example with a course of MLD sessions (already popular with women preparing for conception) or at least some Epsom salt baths (but not too hot!)
- Work, rest, play wisely: your priority is to conceive, so tone down over-work, stress and long commutes. If you are concerned that your job may be affecting your fertility (if you work with chemicals, for example) talk to your doctor. Find a way to chill out. For a busy mind, try hypnosis, meditation or visualisation. Have enough sleep, relaxation and leisure time (remember to book and enjoy that fun, romantic holiday), and don’t over-exercise. A reasonable amount of activity is good, you want your energy to flow smoothly so you stay healthy. But all in moderation, since you are looking to preserve (and replenish) your ‘Jing’ – your essential energy – which in Chinese medicine is what sperm is made from.
- Food and drink. Let food be your medicine – you eat anyway, so you might as well eat well. Healthy sperm production is compromised by greasy food and a poor diet. An increased BMI (body mass index) is linked with decreased sperm quality. Read up from reliable sources, talk to me or see a nutritionist for a full dietary review – it’s an investment worth making. Phase out coffee (and black tea, although herbal tea is OK), as it creates heat, and heat is the main problem in male sub-fertility. Keep alcohol to a minimum as it reduces available zinc.
- Supplement your diet: invest in a good quality multivitamin, Viridian for example. Drink bone broth regularly, several times a week, as a supplement, home made or you can order it from Osius.
- Other lifestyle choices: keep cool – no hot baths, don’t sit all day, wear loose underwear, no mobile in pocket or laptop on lap, and best no cycling (a study has found 80% of mountain bikers to have testicular abnormalities). Don’t allow too much plastic to come in contact with your food. And be aware that smoking reduces sperm production and increases the risk of birth defects. It may not be easy to stop smoking, but it’s a step worth taking, it will make a difference.
- Acupuncture can support you by working on subtle imbalances. Talk to me about it. But keep in mind that the changes that are under your control to make are still key.