When trying to grow your family, it is not uncommon to hit a few bumps along the way. There can be many reasons why a couple can have trouble when trying to conceive. Discover what Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich, authors of Feed Your Fertility, have to say about male factor infertility and what you and your partner can do.
Approximately 30 percent of infertility cases are due to sperm issues, also called male factor infertility. The most obvious indication of male infertility is a prolonged period of unprotected intercourse without conceiving a child. For most men, there are no obvious signs and symptoms, and the news that their swimmers are not top notch often comes as quite a shock.
What the West Says
Sometimes underlying problems such as genetic or structural issues that might prevent the passage of sperm, or hormone imbalances, come with signs and symptoms. These may include the following:
- Infertility, or the inability to conceive a child
- Erectile dysfunction or problems with ejaculation
- Loss of or reduction in facial or body hair (signifying hormonal imbalances)
- Pain, swelling, or lumps in or around the testicles
- Low sperm count, volume or motility, or poor morphology
- Risk factors for sperm issues include the following:
- Using alcohol, tobacco, and certain illegal drugs
- Being overweight
- Having certain past or present infections
- Being exposed to toxins
- Overheating the testicles
- Having a prior vasectomy or vasectomy reversal
- Being born with a fertility disorder or having a blood relative with a fertility disorder
- Having certain medical conditions, including tumors and chronic illnesses
- Taking certain medications or undergoing medical treatments, such as surgery or radiation used for treating cancer
- Performing certain prolonged activities such as bicycling or horseback riding, especially on a hard seat or poorly adjusted bicycle
When to Get a Semen Analysis
In our experience, most men don’t find out their sperm is less than superior until they’ve been trying to conceive for a while and their partners take it upon themselves to seek medical care: A semen analysis is part of the workup. Aside from any emotional stress involved, a semen analysis can never hurt, and it’s not a bad idea to get things checked out before you start trying to make a baby.
Definitely get your swimmers assessed if you’ve been trying for a year or more and have any of the following:
- Pain, discomfort, swelling, or a lump in or around the testicles
- Erectile or ejaculation issues
- Lower than usual or a sudden decrease in sex drive
- A history of testicle or prostate issues
- A history of groin, testicle, penis, or scrotum surgery
- Reversed vasectomy (which can lead to development of antisperm antibodies where the immune system attacks the sperm)
Semen Analysis Results
Understanding the numbers on a sperm analysis can be confusing, especially because the parameters keep changing and there is more than one way of looking at them.
Following is a comparison of the two most up-to-date perspectives, the Kruger Strict and the World Health Organization (WHO).
As you can see, the most recent (5th) edition from the WHO reduced the criteria for morphology from 14 to 4 percent. This is based on the addition of a test created by Dr. Kruger, who made the definition of normal form (morphology) MUCH stricter than it used to be. These forms are analyzed through a complex lab test.
What Kruger discovered is that sperm that meet the strict shape criteria have a better chance at making it through cervical mucus and up to the fallopian tube for fertilization. These more strict guidelines also seem to have improved IVF outcomes.
What the East Says
As we discussed earlier, genetics are the domain of the Kidneys, in particular Kidney Jing. Sperm themselves are essentially pure Jing, and thus problems with sperm quality or count are generally attributed to Kidney deficiency. Semen, a liquid substance, also has a yin component, so in the case of low overall volume, yin must be addressed. When Kidney deficiencies are compounded by obstructions, pain, or swelling, then a diagnosis of either Blood and Qi stagnation or damp heat is added on to the Kidney diagnosis. Kidney deficiencies related to male fertility are diagnosed like this:
Kidney yin deficiency presents with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, poor sperm morphology, low semen volume, possible overactive libido, restlessness, heat, and anxiety.
Kidney yang deficiency causes erectile dysfunction/inability to sustain erection, very low libido, low sperm count, poor motility, feeling cold, lethargy, and possibly depression.
Damp heat leads to swollen, hot, or painful genitals, pain with urination, and/or abnormal discharge from the penis.
Qi and Blood stagnation are caused by congenital deformities (such as a missing vas deferens), undescended testicles, varicocele (a varicose vein in the scrotum), vasectomy, or other surgical history.
Much like his female counterpart’s treatment, Chinese medicine practitioners address male infertility with herbs, acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle modifications.
Because spermatogenesis takes roughly three months, it’s a good idea to commit to implementing these changes for at least that long before expecting improvement to be reflected in new semen analysis.
FEED YOUR FERTILITY
Do you want to make a healthy baby and have a healthy pregnancy?
Are you interested in a holistic approach to fertility?
Do you need to optimize your fertility due to your age or health conditions?
Are you trying to conceive and experiencing challenges?
Very few women and men expect to have trouble when it comes to having a family, and coming up against obstacles can bring about epic levels of stress. Deciding what steps to take can be absolutely baffling.
The good news is that Feed Your Fertility is here to help you. Inside, fertility professionals and authors Emily Bartlett and Laura Erlich will guide you on a path to making the nutritional and lifestyle changes you need to help support healthy fertility and pregnancy. Inside you’ll learn:
- How your lifestyle may be inhibiting your ability to conceive – and what to do about it
- Why popular fertility diets may be leading you down the wrong road
- What foods to eat to optimize and nourish your fertility, and how to adopt a real foods diet
- How to determine your personal health imbalances that may be interfering with your fertility
- How to use Chinese medicine to bring your body into balance and improve your odds of conception
- How to streamline your supplements and take only what you really need
- Your natural and medical treatment options for common fertility issues
- How to navigate the medical fertility world and when to seek help
Get your pregnancy on track the natural, time-tested way and enjoy your journey to motherhood with Feed Your Fertility.