Male factor infertility affects about 40% of couples who are trying to conceive. Read on for more information about male factor infertility and how we address it with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
For far too long women have shouldered the blame, and the shame, for a couple’s inability to have a baby. The truth is, male factor infertility, where a problem with a man’s semen and/or sperm keep it from fertilizing a woman’s egg, accounts for about 40% of all infertility. Why so much attention is focused on women’s infertility and so little is focused on men’s is a complicated issue and beyond the scope of this article, but it is important that any couple who believe they are having trouble conceiving pay just as much attention to him as to her.
I’ve treated many female patients who are baffled by their inability to get pregnant. They’ve had all the infertility testing available and everything is “normal”. They come to me hoping that Chinese Medicine can shed some light on the mystery of their infertility, still assuming that it must be their fault. I ask every fertility patient if a semen analysis has been done, and if so, what were the results? Did the doctor look at sperm count alone, or did he or she also look at the sperm shape (morphology), sperm movement (motility) and the thickness (viscosity) of the semen?
Some men find they have a low sperm count, others find they are producing no sperm at all. Another man’s sperm may be moving, but not moving as they ought to, while yet another man’s sperm may be shaped in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for it to penetrate and fertilize his partner’s egg. The causes for male factor infertility run the gamut from genetics to tight underwear, but Western treatment is often limited to surgery, IVF with ICSI (the injection of the sperm into the egg) or sperm donation.
Structural abnormalities aside (these are best treated surgically), is there an alternative? Yes, but not a quick one. Sperm take 90 days to mature, so any treatments or changes made will take at least that long to show up in the semen. Even then, one 90-day period may not be long enough to show significant changes. When dealing with fertility, people often feel they are running out of time, so the 3, 6 or 9 months it takes for Chinese medicine to produce results may be too long for some patients to wait.
For those who are willing, however, that wait may produce more than just better sperm. Chinese Medicine treats the whole man, so any treatment aimed at correcting the imbalance at the root of his infertility, will probably also produce positive changes in sex drive, sexual function, energy, sleep, digestion and mood.
Lifestyle also plays a role in sperm production, so I recommend eating well and drinking enough water, cutting back or eliminating alcohol, caffeine and recreational drug use, getting enough sleep and physical exercise and learning techniques to reduce stress. As with female patients, I work with men to understand how they can add to treatment and hasten recovery.
The bottom line? It takes two of you to make a baby! Men in couples who haven’t been successful in getting pregnant should have a semen analysis and some should consider having a full examination by a urologist.
For a free consultation with Julie Permut, LAc, please call 603-924-6624. Ready to start treatment? Click here to book an appointment now.