Acupuncture for Male Fertility | Does it help?
As much as 40% of fertility issues involve male fertility
and yet male involvement in fertility treatment is often minimal. Why is this?
Below is some information that answers this question
and attempts to show men why it is important that they get more involved...
Male fertility relies on sperm, which take about 70 days to be produced. During the first few weeks the cells are recruited and developed, and then for the last few weeks they are stored and matured in the tubes of the testes.
As long as the ejaculate contains roughly 40 million sperm, a man has a good chance of getting their partners pregnant. Below that threshold, the ability to conceive drops and it may take a couple longer than a year to conceive, or not be able to conceive at all.
So, to some degree, male fertility is a numbers game and Western medicine focuses on the count, motility and morphology of sperm - the more there are and the better they are able to function and move, the greater the likelihood that one will fertilise an egg.
Chinese medicine has a slightly different view. Quality is as important as quantity.
- Only about 2% of men are actually considered to be infertile
- Around 40% of men are considered to have low fertility
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes infertility as:
“a disease of the reproductive system
defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more
of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.”
It goes on to say that:
“The male partner can be evaluated for infertility or subfertility
using a variety of clinical interventions, and also from a laboratory evaluation of semen.”
WHO currently describes male infertility as:
Volume: under 2-5mls
Concentration: less than 14 million per ml
Motility: less than 40% progressively motile
Form: less than 4% normal appearance
White blood cells: more than 1 million per ml
Why is this relevant?
Many cases of male infertility and low fertility are due to anatomical abnormalities such as varicoceles, ductal obstructions, or ejaculatory disorders. However, deficient sperm production is also a main cause, and can be especially so in cases of low fertility.
In 1992 a meta-analysis of 61 studies over a 50 year period (1938-1991) involving 150 000 men from 23 countries found an almost 50% decline in male sperm counts (113 mill/ ml to 66 mill/ ml). The conclusions of this, and many other studies done since, are that male sperm counts and quality are declining.
In 1992 the WHO guidelines for low male fertility had morphology rates of >30%
A more recent study in France found that the sperm concentration of men decreased by nearly one-third between 1989 and 2005 and most (but not all) studies from several European nations with large databases and the ability to track health records have found that over the past 15 years or so, the counts of healthy men ages 18 to 25 have significantly decreased.
Reasons for this are thought to include environmental pollution, such as pesticides, exogenous estrogens, and heavy metals, and modern lifestyle and diet.
This is not an issue of virility, it is an effect of modern living.
Not everyone agrees with this, as sperm concentrations in populations are difficult to measure and getting reliable cross-sections of the population to provide sperm samples is not easy but there does seem to be a growing bank of evidence that male fertility is becoming an issue.
Mixed in with this is the pressure that many men feel around conception. Having to perform at exactly the right time of the month can take the 'magic' out of sex for a couple and create an undesirable setting for many men.
How male fertility acupuncture can help you
There are, however, aspects of the sperm quality that we cannot measure and these are crucial once the sperm reaches the egg. Male fertility acupuncture has the ability to improve all these aspects over time.
In 2005 research done in Italy and Germany and Italy showed a statistically significant improvement was detected in acrosome position and shape, nuclear shape, axonemal pattern and shape, and accessory fibers of sperm organelles (Pei et al, 2005) with patients given acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks.
Male fertility acupuncture has also been shown to increase sperm count and motility, significantly increase the percentage of normal-form sperm and influence quality, in as little as 3 weeks.
Acupuncture improves sperm quality by addressing the imbalances that are causing the issue. We will discuss dietary and lifestyle, as well as using acupuncture to increase blood flow to the testes and to improve general health.
Research shows that better quality, and higher quantity, sperm counts are linked with lower miscarriage rates, improved rates of egg fertilization and improved embryo development.
Acupuncture can help with:
Oligospermia - few spermatozoa in semen
Hypospermia - low semen volume
Azoospermia - low sperm count
Teratospermia - sperm with abnormal morphology
Asthenozoospermia - low sperm motility
How much treatment do I need?
Treatment is recommended about every 1 to 2 weeks, while you have symptoms.
Depending on the nature of the issue, as health is restored, you may be advised to have treatment from time-to-time to keep your system working well.
Where do the needles go?
We generally use a combination of ‘local’ and ‘distal’ points.
‘Local’ points are on located near the site of any issues we wish to address. ‘Distal’ points are on your arms and legs (below your elbows and knees) that influence the circulation through the entire length of the Channels and Network Vessels.
I will always discuss what points I am going to use first and make sure that you feel comfortable.
About Rick Mudie BSc (Hons), BSc (Oriental Med), MBAcC
Rick is a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). He is a Course Leader, Clinical Supervisor and Lecturer at The International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM), the UK's oldest acupuncture college. He is a traditional Chinese acupuncturist with over 20 years clinical experience.
He has been using fertility acupuncture to improve conception rates and reduce the likelihood of miscarriage since 2004 and has worked with The Agora Gynaecology and Fertility Clinic, in Hove, since 2010.
Read more about Rick.