Male Fertility Acupuncture
40% of fertility issues involve male fertility
and yet male involvement in fertility treatment is minimal
A few facts
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 testes.
- Only about 2% of men are actually considered to be infertile
- Around 40% of men are considered to have low fertility
According to Western medicine, the ability of a sperm to fertilise an egg is based on a few factors, many of which can be measured in a laboratory.
Ejaculate needs to contain roughly 40 million sperm, in order for a man to have a good chance of getting their partner pregnant. This translates as about 14 million per ml (sperm count). Below that threshold, the ability to conceive drops and it may take longer than a year to conceive, or not be able to conceive at all.
How well formed they are (morphology) is also important, as is their ability to swim (motility) in a progressive movement. These are the main aspects (amongst others) that Western medicine focuses on in a semen analysis.
Fertility clinics are increasingly using the DNA fragmentation test as well. This detects changes to a man's DNA within the sperm cells and can be an indicator of how successful those sperm are likely to be in transferring the DNA material required for creation of an embryo.
However, there remains little treatment available for men to help them increase sperm quality.
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:
“The male partner can be evaluated for infertility or sub-fertility using a variety of clinical interventions, and also from a laboratory evaluation of semen.”
WHO describes poor evaluation of semen 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 fertility issues are due to anatomical abnormalities such as varicoceles, ductal obstructions or ejaculatory disorders. However, poor sperm production is often the case in men with poor 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 conclusion of this study, and many others since, is that male sperm counts and quality are declining.
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 be the effects of modern living, including environmental pollution and pesticides, increased oestrogen in water supplies and modern lifestyle & 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 poor 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.
The point is that male fertility is decreasing and, currently, Western medicine has little help to offer men and their partners. 'Don't drink, don't smoke, eat healthily, exercise and taking supplements' are often the standard responses to the question 'As a man, what can I do to improve the situation?
Can acupuncture for male fertility help?
Acupuncture for male fertility works by improving circulation within your whole system, as well as your reproductive system, strengthening weaknesses in and clearing blockages in your whole system and, specifically, within your reproductive system.
Non-invasive diagnostic techniques are used to understand what is going on and how to help your system work better. These techniques include asking questions, taking your pulse, looking at your tongue and palpating the circulations of your abdomen, arms & legs.
Alongside this, we discuss dietary and lifestyle adjustments to improve your general and fertile health. This can help with many of the issue mentioned above.
Issues acupuncture for male fertility may help include:
Oligospermia - few spermatozoa in semen
Hypospermia - low semen volume
Azoospermia - low sperm count
Teratospermia - sperm with abnormal morphology
Asthenozoospermia - low sperm motility
Is there research into acupuncture for male fertility?
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 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, and showed a statistically significant improvement in acrosome position and shape, nuclear shape, axonemal pattern and shape, and accessory fibers of sperm organelles with patients given acupuncture.
Research also shows that better quality, and higher quantity, sperm counts are linked with lower miscarriage rates, improved rates of egg fertilization and improved embryo development.
For further information go to: Male fertility acupuncture research
Where do the needles go?
I use mostly ‘distal’ points – on your arms and legs – with some 'local' points. ‘Local' points for fertility issues are generally on your abdomen - above and below your belly button.
Usually I use between 4 & 6 needles per treatment and will always explain what points I am going to use to make sure you are comfortable.
The needles are extremely thin (0.2mm thick) – about the thickness of a head hair.
How much treatment do I need?
During your Initial Consultation we go through your medical history and any notes or test results that you have and combine these with a Chinese Medicine diagnosis to develop a treatment plan.
Treatment is generally advised every 1 to 2 weeks, for as long as is necessary, but can sometimes be less frequent, depending on individual circumstances.
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.
About Rick Mudie BSc (Hons), BSc (Oriental Med), MBAcC
Rick is a traditional Chinese acupuncturist with over 20 years clinical experience & 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 has been using fertility acupuncture to improve conception rates and reduce the likelihood of miscarriage since 2004 and has worked within and alongside The Agora Gynaecology and Fertility Clinic, in Hove, since 2010.
Read more about Rick.