Did you know that it is just as important for a man to prepare for IVF as it is for a woman?
Keep in mind that it is of the utmost importance to have healthy sperm, as this will be half of the genetic makeup of your child. To some, this may seem obvious; of course half of the genetic makeup of a child comes from the male partner. Why then, do we as natural healthcare practitioners see many more women for preparation for IVF than men?
Let’s consider fertility assessments, semen analysis in particular.
What does a semen analysis tell you? And what does a ‘normal’ sperm result mean?
The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2010) published reference values, to work out how an individual semen analysis compares to a population of fertile men.
Amount and thickness of semen. The typical ejaculate is 2-6 mL of semen (about ½ to 1 teaspoon). An ejaculate that is greater than 1.5 mL falls within the normal reference range* as defined by the WHO. Semen should be thick to start with, and become thinner 10-15 minutes after ejaculation.
Sperm concentration. Also known as sperm count. This is the number of sperm in millions per millilitre of semen. Fifteen million or more sperm per mL is considered normal.
Sperm motility. This is the percentage of sperm that are moving well as an assessment of movement. One hour after ejaculation, at least 40% of sperm should be moving forward in a straight line.
Morphology. This is an analysis of the sperm shape and appearance. The number of ideally shaped sperm (referred to as “normal”) compared to the number of imperfectly shaped sperm (abnormal) should be greater than 4%.
So, if you fall within the “normal” reference range there’s no need to do anything right? Wrong! A semen analysis that falls within the normal reference range does not guarantee that an individual man is fertile, but gives a guide as to whether he is likely to be fertile.
It is also worth noting that the “normal” reference range for sperm morphology allows for 96% of sperm to be abnormally shaped! And “normal” sperm motility allows for 60% of sperm to not be forward moving, definitely room for improvement.
*Reference ranges (modified) from WHO Laboratory Manual of the Examination and Processing of Human Semen (5th Ed. WHO, 2010)
When and how to improve the quality of your sperm.
The sperm regeneration cycle takes about 74 days. Most men produce millions of new sperm everyday, but it takes 2.5 – 3 months for them to fully mature (immature sperm lack the ability to swim forward and fertilise an egg).
Sperm are living cells within the body and are subject to whatever conditions the rest of the body is exposed to throughout their maturation cycle. Extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, smoking, drug and alcohol use and poor diet can all impact the quality of sperm.
It is important to remember that healthy sperm will not be not be ready to fertilise an egg until the new batch of sperm, that has developed under healthier conditions, is mature. This means that after making lifestyle changes it is recommended to wait about 3 months before trying to conceive or undergoing IVF.
Acupuncture can help
Some clinical trials have indicated that acupuncture can improve sperm motility (Dieterle 2009), increase sperm count (Siterman 2009, Siterman 2001), and improve sperm quality (Pei 2005; Gurfinkle 2003).
Acupuncture may help in the treatment of male infertility (Stener-Victorin 2010) by:
- Lowering scrotal temperature
- Enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles
- Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
- By improving sperm maturation in the epididymis,
- Increasing testosterone levels and reducing liquid peroxidation of sperm.
Fertility is a journey for both partners and I am happy to help.
Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.