Male Factor Infertility

What is Male Factor Infertility?


Almost one in six couples experience fertility problems. Studies show that while 40% of the time infertility is the result of  female factors, 40% of the time it's  also the result of male factors and 20% of the time the result is of a combination of both women and men. If you are experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, it is important that the male partner get his sperm checked since men can contribute to a couple's infertility over 50% of the time.  The good news is men are easier to treat than females since men are constantly making new sperm (approximately 1000 sperm per heart beat).  

 

Unfortunately male factor infertility gets overlooked since conventional treatment defaults to Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) which put the woman through a medicated procedure involving surgery to remove her eggs to be inseminated by sperm in the IVF lab.  If the case involves just the man, then there is so many non invasive treatments he can do so his female partner does not have to undergo an ICSI cycle.  It takes about 72 to 90 days for sperm to mature and we have devised a program at Acubalance that involves lifestyle changes, avoiding environmental toxins that damage sperm, supplements known to improve sperm count, motility, morphology and repair DNA fragmentation and acupuncture over a 3 to 6 month period to optimize a mens sperm quality and allow him to reach his peak fertility potential.

 

Sperm problems may involve the quantity and/or quality of the sperm. A simple semen analysis can assess basic fertility. This simply involves asking your family doctor for a test requisition and taking a sperm sample to a local lab for testing. Often men feel embarrassed or stressed about providing the sample.  There is no need to as the sample can be collected at home and discretely dropped off at a laboratory near you.

The semen analysis looks at the sperm in three different ways:

1.       Sperm Count: This is the most important part of the test and the more sperm there is, the better!

2.       Sperm Motility: This measures the percentage of sperm that is moving in a forward direction -- sperm needs to be able to travel from the vagina to the fallopian tubes where they meet the egg).

3.       Sperm Morphology: This measures the shape of the sperm.It is quite common for men to have lot of abnormally-shaped sperm. Don’t feel too worried if you get this result as no one really knows how much impact this has on your overall fertility.

The following issues are the most common causes of male factor infertility:

Structural Problems

Various structural problems, such as blockages, can obstruct the passage of sperm or impair the ability to produce healthy sperm. These can result in several conditions, such as:

  • Scarring
  • Undescended testes
  • Varicocele
  • Vasectomy

Hormonal Imbalances

Imbalances caused by a lack of communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the testes can affect a man’s ability to produce healthy sperm.

Infection and Disease

Many health conditions or diseases, including diabetes, cystic fibrosis, mumps, and any extended period of high fever, can reduce sperm production. As men are continually producing sperm, the infection effects may be reversible if no scarring or blockage has occurred, which can result in sperm function being restored over time.

Age

New research is showing that men’s sperm quality begins to decline around the age of 45  and impacts the health outcome of their child.   We suggest men be proactive and make lifestyle changes and consult with an Acubalance practitioner to learn how to optimize soerm quality which impacts the health blueprint of your child.

Environmental Factors

There has been a dramatic decrease in men’s sperm counts worldwide. While the reason for this decline isn’t confirmed, many scientists believe environmental factors to be the cause

Additionally, working at a job where you are exposed to a lot of toxins can adversely affect your sperm count.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle factors can have a negative effect on sperm counts. These factors include: 

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Cigarettes
  • Hot tubs
  • Overweight (BMI over 25)

 
 

Treatment

Unfortunately male factor infertility gets overlooked since conventional treatments defaults to surgery or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) which requires the woman to go through a medicated procedure involving surgery to remove her eggs to be inseminated by injecting each egg with sperm in the IVF lab.  If the case invloves just the man, then there is so many non invasive treatments he can do so his female partner does not have to undergo an ICSI cycle.  It takes about 72 to 90 days for sperm to mature and we have devised a program at Acubalance that invloves lifestyle changes, avoiding environmental toxins that damage sperm, supplements known to improve sperm count, motility, morphology and repair DNA fragmentation and acupuncture over a 3 to 6 month period to optimize sperm quality and allow them a chance to conceive naturally or better sperm for an IVF/ICSI cycle.

See below for the Chinese medicine approach.  And follow this link to read stories from men sharing their fertility journey.

Surgery is often successful in treating infertility caused by structural problems or blockages. While Western reproductive medicine doesn’t have treatments for most other sperm problems, their ones for structural problems can often help you conceive.

For mild sperm problems, your doctor might recommend intrauterine insemination (IUI).  In this procedure, the man produces a sperm sample, which is then prepared in the laboratory and inserted into his partner’s uterus. IUI is a relatively inexpensive procedure and work very well for certain couples.

For more severe sperm problems, you may need to undergo an IVF (In vitro fertilization) cycle with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). This is when the woman’s eggs are removed and the eggs are fertilized outside her body. With ICSI, a single sperm is then directly injected into the egg. This technology wasn’t available 20 years ago but now it thankfully offers men with severe sperm problems an excellent chance to have a child.

Men sharing their stories about overcoming infertility

 

Dramatic Improvements in semen analysis in 6 Weeks and We Were Pregnant thanks to acupuncture

My Wife and I first came to Acubalance at the recommendation of our fertility specialist. We both had underlying health issues that were preventing us from achieving a natural pregnancy.  For myself, I had been experiencing severe headaches, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, vertigo and eye pain for over 2 years. Along with this, I was getting abnormal semen results, specifically low count, poor morphology and high white blood cell count.

 

For more than two years, my wife and I struggled with our inability to conceive naturally 

So at the end of the second month of treatment, we tried an IUI to essentially get a more accurate sperm analysis to determine if the treatments were having the desired impact. As it turned out there were incredible improvements across all spectrums. 

 

Sperm Count Increased by 4x - IVF Success After Male Factor Failed Cycle

After a failed IVF/ICSI cycle, our doctor at the fertility clinic advised us that my sperm parameters were likely the culprit, and without an improvement there was probably no point in even trying another cycle. He referred me to Acubalance, suggesting that it was our best hope of having a successful cycle in the future. 

 

Male Fertility and Poor Morphology: Improve sperm morphology and motility naturally - pregnant!! 

I’m very happy to say that all the numbers were up. My morphology improved greatly going from 0% normal to 3% normal and my numbers for count and motility all improved noticeably, they were actually fine before but are now even better.

 

Sperm Count Increased by 70%

 

After six months of treatment with Acubalance, the following results occurred: Sperm count increased by 70% Motility increased by 35% Total motile count doubled 

How Chinese Medicine can Help

The "KISS" approach ... Keep It Simple 'Stud' approach was devised by the Acubalance team to help increase a couples chances of a healthy take home baby through conceiving naturally or with IVF/ICSI by making it simple for the man to comply in order to improve his sperm.

Our 'KISS' approach requires the male partner only needing to take from three bottles of supplements to get all the minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants needed to effectively improve his sperm parameters.  The supplements also have supporting research for the ingredients positive impact on sperm count, motility, morphology and repairing DNA fragmentation.   We recommend all men take these to help improve their sperm quality and quantity for the benefit  of their future child's heath blueprint.  Pick up your supplements from Acubalance and ask us about our complimentary Q&A in case you have any questions related to wither male or female infertility.

 

Chinese medicine treats the underlying health problem that may be affecting sperm count, morphology and motility.

Men produce new sperm all the time. It takes approximately 72-90 days to create and mature sperm. During this crucial time, we treat the underlying condition or imbalance that is affecting your fertility. Typically a treatment program starts with eliminating toxins that damage sperm. In addition, acupuncture treatments, herbs, diet, supplements, and exercise shown to boost sperm quality are recommended.

Acupuncture

"In conjunction with ART, or even for reaching natural fertility potential, acupuncture treatment is a simple, non-invasive method that can improve sperm quality."
(Dr. Jian Pei, Fertility and Sterility 2005)

Recent studies have shown that acupuncture can effectively:

  • Increase sperm production
  • Increase the percentage of healthy sperm
  • Improve sperm movement (motility)
  • Improve the levels of hormones responsible for fertility
  • Increase the rate of pregnancy when used in conjunction with ART studies

Acupuncture needles are never inserted into the genitals. The needles are instead painlessly inserted into acupuncture points in various other parts of the body. Also, acubalance offers laser acupuncture as alternative to traditional acupuncture.


Herbal Therapy

Herbal therapy is another important aspect of Chinese Medicine, and provides an essential compliment to acupuncture. Studies have shown that herbal formulas may improve low sperm counts or poor motility in male factor infertility.

Studies:

 

Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility

Pei J et al Fertil Steril. 2005 Jul;84(1):141-7 Fertility and Sterility 

 

A group of infertile men who had pathological semen analyses according to WHO criteria, were treated with acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks. A statistically significant increase after acupuncture in the percentage and number of sperm with no structural defects was demonstrated compared to the control group of patients who received no treatment. They concluded that male infertility patients could benefit from having acupuncture. A general improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after acupuncture.

 

 

Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality

Siterman S et al Arch Androl. 1997 Sep-Oct;39(2):155-61

Archives of Andrology 

 

A group of infertile men with abnormal semen analysis were randomly divided into 2 groups; one group was given 10 acupuncture treatments over 5 weeks, and the other group, no treatment. Significant improvements (p < 0.05) were demonstrated in the acupuncture group compared to the control group, in particular improved motility and morphology.

 

Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities

Gurfinkel E et al Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.

 

Asian Journal of Andrology 

In a prospective, controlled and blind study, a group of infertile men (married for 3 - 11 years without children) were randomized into two groups, the treatment group receiving 10 acupuncture treatments and the control group receiving sham acupuncture treatments. The patients in the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant increase in the percentage of normal forms compared to the control group

 

A PROSPECTIVE RANDOMIZED PLACEBO-CONTROLLED STUDY OF THE EFFECT OF ACUPUNCTURE ON INFERTILE PATIENTS WITH SEVERE OLIGOASTHENOZOOSPERMIA

Dieterle et al

Fertility and Sterility, 2009 Oct

 

In this first prospective, randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled study, 28 infertile patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia received acupuncture according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and 29 infertile patients received placebo acupuncture. A significantly higher percentage of motile sperm (World Health Organization categories A–C), but no effect on sperm concentration, was found after acupuncture compared with placebo acupuncture.

 

POINT- AND FREQUENCY-SPECIFIC RESPONSE OF THE TESTICULAR ARTERY TO ABDOMINAL ELECTROACUPUNCTURE IN HUMANS

Cakmak Y et al

Fertility and Sterility, 2008

 

These authors demonstrate that particular frequencies applied for just five minutes are effective in increasing blood flow in the testes and suggest that such a stimulus may address the damaged microcirculation associated with varicoceles, and with aging. They note that decreased testicular arterial blood flow may result in impaired spermatogenesis from defective metabolism in the microcirculatory bed and suggest that further research is needed to discover if electroacupuncture can improve sperm manufacture in this instance.

 

 

INFLUENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE ON IDIOPATHIC MALE INFERTILITY IN ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Zhang M et al 

Journal of Huazhong University, 2002

 

Acupuncture can improve sperm quality and fertilization rates in assisted reproductive technology

The clinical effects of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in sperm parameter and on therapeutic results in assisted reproductive technology were investigated. 22 patients failed in intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with idiopathic male infertility were treated with acupuncture twice weekly for 8 weeks, followed by ICSI treatment again. The sperm concentration, motility, morphology, fertilization rates and embryo quality were observed. Quick sperm motility after acupuncture was significantly improved as compared with that before treatment. The normal sperm ratio was increased after. The fertilization rates after acupuncture were obviously higher than that before treatment. There was no significant difference in sperm concentration and general sperm motility between before and after acupuncture. The embryo quality after acupuncture was improved, but the difference between them was not significant (P > 0.05)

 

DOES ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT AFFECT SPERM DENSITY IN MALES WITH VERY LOW SPERM COUNT? A PILOT STUDY

Siterman S et al Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.

Andrologia

 

This pilot study once again showed a positive effect of acupuncture on sperm count - but this time on men with such low sperm counts (or no sperm) that they would usually require a testicular biopsy to extract sperm for use in an IVF cycle. Seven of the 15 men with no sperm at all produced sperm detectable by the light microscope after a course of 10 acupuncture treatments (p < 0.01) ie enough sperm could be produced for ICSI to be performed without recourse to testicular biopsy. The control group with similar semen analysis had no treatment and showed no change after 3 months.

 

Diet

Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a good diet can help boost sperm production. Watching your portion size and exercising daily is also crucial. You should strive for a body mass index (BMI) of 20-25 and a waist circumference (WC) of less than 40. Don’t worry – if you are overweight, losing even just 10-15 lbs. can make a big difference.

Whole Foods

Whole foods are foods still in the state Mother Nature made them (the apple versus apple juice), minimally processed, and refined as little as possible before being eaten. Whole foods provide maximum nutrients, fiber enzymes, antioxidants, and grat taste without added artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, sweeteners, or trans fats.

Slow Carbs

Slow carbohydrates are those carbohydrates that are more slowly digested, causing a slower and lower rise in blood sugar after being eaten. They include beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, and most fruits. Eating slow carbs helps to minimize insulin resistance, regulate blood sugar, balance fertility hormones, and prevent gestational diabetes.

Plant-Based Foods

You don’t have to cut out all meat from your diet to be healthy and fertile. While you can continue to eat organic grass fed beef or bison, just make sure you increase your servings of anti-oxidant plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes (such as kidney beans), nuts, seeds, and whole grains to least five a day. These foods are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients that counter inflammation (a common cause of infertility) and boost your reproductive system.

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats and oils are those that are pressed naturally from whole-plant foods (coconuts, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives) and short-lived, deep sea fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, etc.). Free-range poultry and eggs are also highly recommended. Healthy fats combat cellular inflammation and improve hormonal sensitivity.

 
 

Lifestyle

It’s necessary to change your lifestyle as well. Exercise, stress reduction, and community interaction are all important and free ways to optimize your fertility.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to balance your hormones and manage stress. Exercise burns calories and helps regulate your insulin levels, reversing some of the metabolic imbalances that contribute to weight gain and fertility problems. Furthermore, when you exercise, your body rewards you by releasing a cascade of feel-good hormones (endorphins). These endorphins are Mother Nature’s antidepressants, lowering your stress and boosting your sense of wellbeing.

You can get the positive effects of exercise by just walking for 30 minutes every day. The effect of your workout can be further enhanced by incorporating more activity into your daily routine: try parking your car a few blocks from work or your destination, take stairs instead of an elevator whenever possible, hike, bike, swim.

Stress Reduction

Chronic stress can have a powerful effect on your body as whole and your fertility in particular. Stress is when you perceive a threat — this can be a negative thought as much as an external danger — and your body releases a cascade of stress hormones, including cortisol, to put you in a flight or fight response. Stress shuts down all non-essential systems and interferes with your body’s ability to respond to hormones. This results in blood being diverted from the reproductive organs, thus decreasing the production of sperm. Practices such as qi gong, yoga, meditation, and tai qi are very effective ways to reduce stress and induce deep relaxation.

 
 

Other Resources

 High Temperatures

The human body is 37 degrees Celsius while sperm functions best at 32 degrees Celsius. This means anything that elevates the scrotum’s temperature over a period of time can adversely affect sperm. Long distance driving, extended sitting, hot baths, saunas, hot tubs, tight-fitting underwear, and athletic support straps all can raise the temperature of the scrotum, thus “cooking” the sperm.

Alcohol

Alcohol interferes with the ability to make testosterone and also speeds-up the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. Furthermore, the breakdown product of alcohol in the body is acetaldehyde, which is toxic to sperm. All of this can lower sperm count and decrease sex drive. The good news is that if you stop drinking, most of the damage will repair over time.

Smoking

Smoking increases the number of free radicals in the body, which are known to damage many cells. Sperm cells are among those most affected by free radical damage so smoking can result in reduced sperm count and motility as well as increased amount of abnormally-shaped sperm. Fortunately, this damage is generally reversible if you quit smoking.

Drugs

Many prescription drugs affect fertility: common antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline can wipe out a sperm harvest while phenytoin, glucocorticoids, sulfasalazine, and nitrofurantoin are other drugs that can affect sperm motility.

Furthermore, many nonprescription drugs can have a toxic effect on sperm. For example, the chemical ingredient in marijuana is very closely related to testosterone, which causes the body to produce less of its own. Marijuana also builds-up in the testes, lowering libido, causing impotence, and sometimes even causing sexual anxiety. Fortunately, as with cigarettes, if you stop smoking them, you will probably see an improvement in sperm quality within a few months. The effects of cocaine on fertility are similar to those of marijuana.

Caffeine

Too much caffeine may impair sperm production, cause chromosomal abnormalities, and effect sperm motility.

Excessive Exercise

Though moderate regular exercise helps your reproductive health, exercising to exhaustion may lower sperm count (due to heat) and temporarily reduce testosterone production.

Toxins and Pollutants

There are unfortunately a wide variety of toxins and pollutants that can harm the development of sperm. For example, pesticides and heavy metals are toxic for sperm – they’re designed to disrupt the reproductive cycle of the insect, fungus, or weed they’re trying to kill. Ever since the use of chemical pesticides was introduced after World War II, male sperm counts have plummeted. Avoid as much pesticide consumption or contact as possible by eating organic foods and not using pesticides in your garden.

Another problematic toxin is DBCP (dibromochloropropene), a soil fumigant formerly used in American agriculture. It causes male sterility in mammals and although it was banned in the US in 1979, it can still be found as a contaminant in ground water. DBCP has allegedly caused epidemics of childlessness among plantation workers. Therefore, eating local organic foods is important. Avoid tropical non-organic fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, watch your exposure to X-rays, solvents, paint products, and toxic metals. Chemicals called APEs are used as emulsifiers and are found in detergents, paints, pesticides, plastic wraps, textiles and cosmetics. Phthalates, which make plastic flexible, are the most abundant manmade chemicals in the environment, and are present in the human diet. When these chemicals were tested on animals at levels approximating human exposure, they found effects similar to those of DES. It appears that industrial chemicals can actually mimic hormones.

Environmental Estrogens

Environmental estrogens can damage the sertoli cells. Sertoli cells are responsible for the production of sperm. Estrogens are now found in drinking water and food such as meat. Plastics also give off estrogens. Don’t microwave plastic and try to avoid drinking from it – use glass containers instead. If you are drinking water from a plastic bottle, try to limit its exposure to the sun or heat. Balance your intake of water between bottled water and filtered tap water (or tap water that has been let sit on the counter for a few hours).

 
 Studies:

 

Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility

Pei J et al Fertil Steril. 2005 Jul;84(1):141-7 Fertility and Sterility 

 

A group of infertile men who had pathological semen analyses according to WHO criteria, were treated with acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks. A statistically significant increase after acupuncture in the percentage and number of sperm with no structural defects was demonstrated compared to the control group of patients who received no treatment. They concluded that male infertility patients could benefit from having acupuncture. A general improvement of sperm quality, specifically in the ultrastructural integrity of spermatozoa, was seen after acupuncture.

 

 

Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality

Siterman S et al Arch Androl. 1997 Sep-Oct;39(2):155-61

Archives of Andrology 

 

A group of infertile men with abnormal semen analysis were randomly divided into 2 groups; one group was given 10 acupuncture treatments over 5 weeks, and the other group, no treatment. Significant improvements (p < 0.05) were demonstrated in the acupuncture group compared to the control group, in particular improved motility and morphology.

 

Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities

Gurfinkel E et al Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.

 

Asian Journal of Andrology 

In a prospective, controlled and blind study, a group of infertile men (married for 3 - 11 years without children) were randomized into two groups, the treatment group receiving 10 acupuncture treatments and the control group receiving sham acupuncture treatments. The patients in the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant increase in the percentage of normal forms compared to the control group

 

A PROSPECTIVE RANDOMIZED PLACEBO-CONTROLLED STUDY OF THE EFFECT OF ACUPUNCTURE ON INFERTILE PATIENTS WITH SEVERE OLIGOASTHENOZOOSPERMIA

Dieterle et al

Fertility and Sterility, 2009 Oct

 

In this first prospective, randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled study, 28 infertile patients with severe oligoasthenozoospermia received acupuncture according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and 29 infertile patients received placebo acupuncture. A significantly higher percentage of motile sperm (World Health Organization categories A–C), but no effect on sperm concentration, was found after acupuncture compared with placebo acupuncture.

 

POINT- AND FREQUENCY-SPECIFIC RESPONSE OF THE TESTICULAR ARTERY TO ABDOMINAL ELECTROACUPUNCTURE IN HUMANS

Cakmak Y et al

Fertility and Sterility, 2008

 

These authors demonstrate that particular frequencies applied for just five minutes are effective in increasing blood flow in the testes and suggest that such a stimulus may address the damaged microcirculation associated with varicoceles, and with aging. They note that decreased testicular arterial blood flow may result in impaired spermatogenesis from defective metabolism in the microcirculatory bed and suggest that further research is needed to discover if electroacupuncture can improve sperm manufacture in this instance.

 

 

INFLUENCE OF ACUPUNCTURE ON IDIOPATHIC MALE INFERTILITY IN ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Zhang M et al 

Journal of Huazhong University, 2002

 

Acupuncture can improve sperm quality and fertilization rates in assisted reproductive technology

The clinical effects of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in sperm parameter and on therapeutic results in assisted reproductive technology were investigated. 22 patients failed in intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with idiopathic male infertility were treated with acupuncture twice weekly for 8 weeks, followed by ICSI treatment again. The sperm concentration, motility, morphology, fertilization rates and embryo quality were observed. Quick sperm motility after acupuncture was significantly improved as compared with that before treatment. The normal sperm ratio was increased after. The fertilization rates after acupuncture were obviously higher than that before treatment. There was no significant difference in sperm concentration and general sperm motility between before and after acupuncture. The embryo quality after acupuncture was improved, but the difference between them was not significant (P > 0.05)

 

DOES ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT AFFECT SPERM DENSITY IN MALES WITH VERY LOW SPERM COUNT? A PILOT STUDY

Siterman S et al Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.

Andrologia

 

This pilot study once again showed a positive effect of acupuncture on sperm count - but this time on men with such low sperm counts (or no sperm) that they would usually require a testicular biopsy to extract sperm for use in an IVF cycle. Seven of the 15 men with no sperm at all produced sperm detectable by the light microscope after a course of 10 acupuncture treatments (p < 0.01) ie enough sperm could be produced for ICSI to be performed without recourse to testicular biopsy. The control group with similar semen analysis had no treatment and showed no change after 3 months.