For far too long, we blamed women alone for infertility. However male factor infertility is solely responsible for 20%-30% of fertility cases and contributes to 50% of all fertility cases.
Male infertility is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive investigation and complete work-up in order to ensure it is properly diagnosed and treated. Below is a quick Q&A for some of the most common questions I hear in my practice.
What is a normal semen analysis?
Scientific research shows that sperm counts are on the decline globally. A large retrospective study of 7,780 semen samples from infertile men found that sperm concentration had declined from 27.75 million/mL in 1986 to 4.60 million/mL in 2003. The World Health Organization actually changed their guidelines for semen analysis in 2010. This means more patients who would have been previously flagged as having a low count now qualify as ‘normal’.
|Parameter||WHO 1999||WHO 2010||% Decline|
|Semen volume (ml)||2||1.5||25|
What are the causes of poor sperm quality?
The numerous factors that negatively affect sperm quality are listed below. Many of these, such as obesity, are modifiable through dietary and lifestyle changes.
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Genetic defects
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Environmental exposures
- Lifestyle Factors (sleep, smoking, alcohol, obesity etc.)
- Thyroid disorders
- Inguinal hernia repair
- Cystic fibrosis
- Erectile dysfunction
- Immune (anti-sperm antibodies)
What lifestyle factors can negatively impact sperm quality?
Sleep- There is an inverse U-shaped relationship between sleep duration and semen volume and total sperm. In one study, male subjects who slept 7.0–7.5 hours/day had the highest sperm count, whereas sleeping more than 9.0 hours or less than 6.5 hours was associated with a lower count.
Smoking-It is well known that nicotine is toxic to sperm. For couples undergoing IVF, if the male partner was a smoker, they had significantly lower live birth rates than nonsmokers. Butt out, and this includes marijuana as well.
Alcohol- In another IVF study, the odds of a live birth using IVF were 21% lower in couples who both drank at least 4 drinks per week. If you feel yourself reaching for a drink every day after work, I would suggest seeking help to reduce your alcohol consumption and find healthier ways to manage your stress.
Can medications harm my fertility?
Numerous medications (anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, antibiotics) can impair sperm quality. Speak to your doctor to see if any of your medications are a concern.
Is there such a thing as a fertility diet?
The Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in nuts, olive oil, fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, has been associated with higher fertility rates. Processed foods, fried foods or simple carbohydrates high in sugar have the opposite effect. Making dietary changes can be hard and can sometimes require significant behaviour change. Avoid jumping from one fad diet to the next and instead seek professional help.
What supplements should I be taking to improve my overall sperm health?
Research suggests that antioxidants, such as CoQ10, N-Acetyl Cysteine, and zinc can improve sperm health and increase embryo quality. As a Naturopathic Doctor with a strong clinical focus in fertility, I provide personalized, evidence-based supplementation plans for all my patients. Speak to your ND before taking any new supplements.
I’ve heard that acupuncture can help improve fertility, is that true?
Absolutely! Acupuncture can promote relaxation, decrease cortisol (our stress hormone), increase blood flow and even improve sperm quality. I recommend weekly acupuncture sessions for anyone who is trying to conceive, and especially for those who are preparing for an IVF cycle or IUI.
Got more questions? Let’s connect in person or over the phone to determine how best to help you achieve your fertility goals.