Need to improve your sperm?
Are you trying to conceive and you have found out your sperm is not the best it could be? Maybe it has a low sperm count? or Morphology (normal sperm) is low or wriggle power (progressive motility) is poor. Whatever the area you are looking at improving these tips will help you improve your help.
What can you do to improve your sperm?
Wait, realistic expectations!! Sperm cells grow from immature to mature and what is ejaculated over three months. Every step of the way in the three months (the closer they get to a mature cell more important changes can be) these changes can impact the integrity of sperm. However ideally 3-6 months month is what is needed to see very big changes, but significant changes can be made in less time.
Why do you have poor Sperm quality, motility, or count?
Sadly, one in five Australian couples have trouble conceiving, and male infertility is a contributing factor in 50% of these cases. As men age, the quality and number of their sperm decrease (a man’s average sperm volume drops by 20% between the ages of 30 and 50 years old). The older the man, the longer the length of time it will take for his female partner to conceive. This is often coupled with an increased incidence of miscarriage, regardless of her age. Sperm motility (i.e. the sperms’ ‘swimming power’) also drops 3.1% for each advancing year of age and the percentage of sperm who swim in a purposeful manner decreases by 5% in the same period. Over and above these typical declines with age, there is a much more concerning picture to be aware of.
Male infertility now affects one in twenty men and 40% of male infertility cases are due to poor sperm quality. Over the past 30 years, we have seen a 30% decrease in average sperm health within the general male population. The average male sperm count has dropped 45% from 113 million/ml to 66 million/ml and the number of men with low sperm counts has tripled. What this means is that the average sperm count of a 30-year-old today is about a quarter of what it was in 1925.
The cause of this stark decrease appears to be increased exposure to environmental pollutants, either during the time in the womb or later in life. Environmental pollutants have a disruptive effect of an endocrine system called Endocrine Disruptive Chemicals in many commonly used plastics such as BPAs. Research also tells us that pregnancies of the partners of men exposed to environmental pollutants are also affected, experiencing higher stillbirths and premature delivery. Read more about this here.
Does sperm quality impact fertility if doing IVF or ART?
Sometimes if doing IVF we are told not really, however, from a holistic point of view of fertility, poor sperm parameters can be markers of overall cell health, and also impact your offspring’s outcomes, so we think they are …so we think it is very important! Although ART/ IVF or TESE positively impacts sperm selection, a holistic approach to improving sperm integrity is only going to yield better results, as it means selecting the best sperm from a better bunch!!
The good news?
The great news is, along with Chinese medicine and acupuncture, and the adoption of some diet, lifestyle, nutritional, and other changes, things can change for the better in just a few months.
How acupuncture may improve sperm quality?
Acupuncture has been shown to have a significant effect on the motility of sperm in certain trials. It is thought that the mechanism for this may be by improving the zinc/cadmium ratio. Cadmium causes thicker semen, which slows the sperm, whilst zinc improves sperm motility. By positively impacting the ratio of zinc, the percentage of moving/swimming sperm may improve.
It is also thought that SOD, an antioxidant that increases both sperm motility and count, may be positively influenced by acupuncture. Furthermore, acupuncture is thought to positively impact levels of met-enkephalin (an opioid that improves sperm mobility). Acupuncture may also influence sperm morphology, and some studies have shown that it may improve the fertilisation rate of ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, an IVF procedure).
Length and type of treatment
Sperm take between 70 and 90 days to fully mature, so in an ideal world, acupuncture treatment is commenced 3 months prior to starting to conceive. However, not everyone has the luxury of time. Some studies suggest benefit from acupuncture after only 5 weeks of bi-weekly treatments, and so starting as soon as possible is recommended.
Ten weekly or bi-weekly treatments are considered to be optimal due to sperm maturation time, although even 4-5 weekly treatments can still offer benefits.
Acupuncture points for improving sperm quality are located on the lower back, abdomen, and lower leg. These points are used to promote blood flow to the pelvis and testes, improve a person’s strength and vitality, promote good-quality sleep and relieve stress.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe that your whole well-being is important to the health of your sperm and so any other health problems or symptoms are addressed simultaneously during your acupuncture session.
Keep in mind if you do not like needles… laser acupuncture, diet and lifestyle advice plus nutritional supplements and Chinese herbs can have a big impact!!!
Tips for Sperm health
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 the 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 program. 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 workplace 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 underpants
Exercise: avoid excessive cycling or prolonged overheating, but otherwise keep up regular exercise.
Mobile phones and laptops: some reports have indicated that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones is associated with hormone changes and that long hours of use is associated with reduced fertility. Best not to keep your mobile phone in the side pocket of your trousers and try to limit its use.
Acupuncture to improve Sperm: A number of randomized controlled trials and pilot studies have investigated the effect of acupuncture and laser or electro-stimulation of acupuncture points, on sperm quality in men with poor motility, morphology, a varicocele or low sperm counts. Early indications of benefit are encouraging further research and larger trials.
Watch our Making it on Monday session- a weekly workshop for mums and dads in the making for 5 tips to improve sperm health.
We look forward to working with you improve your outcomes soon!