Preparing to conceive – the sperm

A number of studies in several countries have examined the effect of acupuncture treatment on some sperm parameters. In these trials mild electro-acupuncture were applied to the abdomen and the lower legs.

A meta analysis of some of these trials found that motility and count may be improved by acupuncture, but we would like to see larger trials done before definitive conclusions or clinical recommendations can be made.

Lifestyle factors make a big difference to the health of sperm, and the good news is that most of it is under your control.


Alcohol: there is no doubt that heavy alcohol consumption has a deleterious effect on sperm count and function, but moderate drinking seems to do no harm. If you have a hot constitution your acupuncturist will advise you to avoid some types of alcohol.

Smoking: all studies have shown deleterious effects of tobacco or marijuana on sperm. If you are having difficulty giving up, talk to us about using acupuncture to deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Coffee: a little bit is fine for most men but too much (3 cups a day) has been shown to damage sperm DNA. If you have a hot constitution, coffee intake should be limited.

Weight loss: a high BMI (being overweight) is associated with decreased testosterone and increased oestrogen, neither of which are good for your sperm count or quality.  Now is a good time to start a weight loss programme. Acupuncture can support you through a weight loss program.

Sex: frequent sex improves the quality of sperm in an ejaculate, while a few days abstinence increases the quantity of sperm. If your partner knows when she ovulates then sex daily around this time is recommended. If not, then it is advisable to have sex every second day from when the period finishes and continue for 10 days (or more if your partner has a long cycle).  If libido or performance on demand is an issue speak to your practitioner about acupuncture and herbs.

Fumes: we know that men exposed to chemicals or fumes at their work place have lower sperm counts and poorer morphology. Try and limit exposure at work and at home.

Stress: infertility causes stress and in a cruel vicious cycle, stress has been shown to reduce sperm quality. Manage stress by taking some time each day to relax or exercise, and make sure you get enough sleep. Many patients find acupuncture a good antidote to stress.

Supplements: Seminal fluid needs high levels of antioxidants to protect the sperm from oxidative damage to sperm membranes and DNA during their 90 day development. Zinc, vitamins E and C, CoQ10, selenium, fish oils and carnitine have all been shown to have an association with sperm quality.

Diet: you don’t need to follow any special or restrictive diets; just eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and have adequate protein. Eat organic foods where possible.

Clothing: sperm manufacture works better at cooler temperatures (which is why the testicles are carried outside the body). Hence men are advised to avoid wearing tight jeans and tight under pants.

Exercise: avoid excessive cycling or prolonged overheating, but otherwise keep up regular exercise.

Mobile phones and laptops: we know that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones is associated with hormone changes and that long hours of use is associated with reduced fertility. Do not keep your mobile phone in the side pocket of your trousers and try to limit its use.