Acupuncture for male fertility issues
“The World Health Organisation defines male factor infertility as the presence of one or more abnormalities in the semen analysis, or the presence of inadequate sexual or ejaculatory function (Rowe 2004). In 50% of involuntarily childless couples, a male infertility associated factor is found together with abnormal semen parameters (Dohle 2010).”
There are several factors that are responsible for male fertility issues, these include low sperm count, abnormal sperm shape and size (morphology), and motility problems (the movement of the sperm). The sperm can be abnormal due to a genetics, childhood issues, hormone imbalance and physiological and/or behavioural problems.
The man’s overall health will be also reflected on his fertility. Men who live a healthy lifestyle are more likely to produce healthy sperm. There are some lifestyle choices that can have a negative impact male fertility, like for example:
– Smoking – decreases both sperm count and sperm motility.
– Prolonged use of marijuana and other recreational drugs.
– Chronic alcohol abuse.
– Anabolic steroid use – can cause testicular shrinkage and infertility.
– Overly intense exercise – can produce high levels of adrenal steroid hormones which cause a testosterone deficiency resulting in infertility.
– Not enough Vitamin C and Zinc in the diet.
– Tight underwear – increases scrotal temperature which results in decreased sperm production.
– Exposure to environmental hazards and toxins such as pesticides, lead, paint, radiation, radioactive substances, mercury, and heavy metals.
– Excessive stress.
– Laptop on the lap and mobile phone in the trouser pocket – adding heat to the groin area.
Changing these behaviours will improve a man’s fertility and this will need to be considered when a couple is trying to become pregnant. In general, it will take about 3 months before the man sees signs of improvement on his sperm sample – because of the natural “sperm production” cycle.
How can acupuncture help male fertility?
Previous research has shown that acupuncture can improve fertility levels in women (see our other blog articles published on this subject) but there are fewer studies that have been conducted on male infertility.
Still, the evidence available from studies published suggests that acupuncture can have an effect on sperm production and quality, without causing any changes in behaviour or sexual desire.
A trial published in “Fertility and Sterility” has shown just how effective acupuncture can be in the treatment of this condition, leading to significant increase in the number of normal sperm and equally significant reductions in structural defects.
Other relevant publications include:
Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility.
Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12658811
This trial looks at sperm behaviour in an IVF setting. It was a “before and after” study involving 82 infertile men with pathological semen abnormalities and who’s sperm achieved a poor fertilisation rate in at least 2 IVF/ICSI cycles.
Acupuncture may help in the treatment of male infertility (Stener-Victorin 2010), by:
– Lowering scrotal temperature (Siterman 2009)
– Enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing the diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles (Komori 2009)
– Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003)
– By improving sperm maturation in the epididymis, increasing testosterone levels, and reducing liquid peroxidation of sperm (Crimmel 2001)
So, in conclusion, either in conjunction with IVF or even for reaching natural fertility potential, acupuncture is a simple, noninvasive method that can improve sperm quality.
If you have any further questions about this topic, please feel free to contact the clinicians.