It Takes Two: Male Factor Infertility

Guest Blog Entry by: Kara Yorkhall, L.Ac, MaOM

Whenever a woman comes to my office seeking Chinese medicine treatment for infertility, I always inquire whether her male partner has had a semen analysis. As it turns out male factor infertility or MFI is a involved in up to 50% of all documented infertility cases. Therefore, obtaining a thorough semen analysis is always a valuable component to understanding the whole picture of a couple’s fertility. A semen analysis should not only check the sperm count, or the total number of sperm in an ejaculate sample but also sperm morphology, motility, and the pH and viscosity of the seminal fluid, as well as other measures.

The Western Approach
There are relatively few Western medical treatment options available to men struggling with infertility. The majority of cases are treated using IVF with ICSI (the injection of selected sperm into the egg in vitro). Structural problems are usually best treated with surgery, and hormonal therapies are sometimes recommended as well.

The Eastern Approach
Similar to treatment of female infertility Traditional Chinese Medicine has shown to be an effective treatment modality for treatment of male factor infertility. As with treatment of other conditions, the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment relies on developing a proper diagnosis and corresponding treatment. Acupuncture and herbal and food therapy based on the individual patient’s constitution is essential. There are also some basic lifestyle changes and supplements that all men could incorporate into their routine.

Nutritional Supplementation
Usually the seminal fluid of sub-fertile men does not contain the levels of antioxidants necessary to clean up the circulating free radicals in the fluid. Therefore antioxidant consumption is important as well as other supplements to improve sperm production, motility and cellular replication. Here are some commonly recommended supplements for MFI.

Vitamin C – 2000 mg/day

Vitamin E – 800 IU/day

Selenium – 200 micrograms/day

L-Arginine – 2-4 g/day

L-Carnitine – 1000-1800 mg/day

Zinc – 60 mg/day

Vitamin B12 – 1000 mg/day

To create healthy sperm a man’s diet is of utmost importance. Because synthetic sources of estrogen can be problematic for healthy sperm generation it is especially helpful to avoid foods in which these have been found. Meats and dairy products from animals treated hormonally, eggs, certain plastics, and even some drinking water sources have shown the presence of synthetic estrogens which can cause problems for men. Soy products can also be a problem. Pesticides and other chemicals, hydrogenated oils and artificial sweetners, cigarette/marijuana usage, certain prescription drugs and alcohol have also shown to disrupt normal sperm production.

Other Lifestyle Factors
Besides the widely accepted no-no’s such as biking and hot tubs, it is important to look at the big picture of how a man is using his body. Working long hours, inadequate exercise, and excessive radiation exposure are examples of typical stressors that may contribute to infertility. Finally, although some men may never feel comfortable sharing their feelings about their ‘diagnosis’, the reality is that most men will experience some degree of sadness, grief, embarrassment, self-blame, frustration, or other feelings related to their masculine identity. A supportive partner’s efforts to acknowledge these feelings and to show compassion and sensitivity may go a long way towards creating a safe environment for self-expression.

About Kara Yorkhall
Kara is the primary practitioner and owner of Fertile Ground Natural Care, a holistic health care clinic offering acupuncture and herbal therapy for couples who are trying to conceive or women who are pregnant or postpartum.   Kara is passionate about offering high quality treatments in a comfortable setting where patients feel safe and empowered.  At Fertile Ground Natural Care patients have the opportunity to become educated about their health from a Chinese medical perspective and to receive personalized guidance about their lifestyle and diet choices.

In addition, Kara is board certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and licensed by the Minnesota State Medical Board.  She has a bachelors degree from Oberlin College and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Masters degree in Oriental medicine from Northwestern Health Sciences University.  She has completed specialized training in fertility and pregnancy care and is a fellow of ABORM, the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine.

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