A group of sperm and spermatozoa used in fertility treatments like IVF.

A group of sperm and spermatozoa used in fertility treatments like IVF.

The Decline of Male Fertility: Understanding the Factors and Solutions

Male fertility once considered a constant, is facing a significant decline over the past two decades. This trend has raised concerns worldwide, prompting researchers to delve deeper into its causes and potential solutions. In this blog, we will explore the parameters of sperm health, the decline observed since 1995, nutrients crucial for sperm health, the importance of sperm tests, the impact of stress on sperm production, and how traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture offer promising avenues for improving male fertility.

 

Understanding Sperm Health: World Health Organization Parameters

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides parameters for assessing sperm health, which include sperm count, motility, morphology, and volume. According to WHO’s latest guidelines, a healthy sperm count is considered to be over 15 million sperm per millilitre, with at least 40% exhibiting progressive motility and 4% demonstrating normal morphology. Additionally, the volume of semen should be at least 1.5 millilitres.

 

 

 

This table illustrates the changes in the World Health Organization parameters for sperm analysis over the years, reflecting the observed decline in male fertility and adjustments in diagnostic criteria.

 

Comparing these parameters to those from 1995 reveals a concerning decline. In the past two decades, there has been a notable decrease in sperm count and quality among men in various regions across the globe. For instance, studies have shown that average sperm counts have dropped by more than 50% since 1973, with no signs of improvement.

 

Nutrients Essential for Sperm Health

balanced-diet-featured

 

Several nutrients play crucial roles in maintaining optimal sperm health. These include:

 

  1. Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium help neutralize free radicals, protecting sperm from oxidative damage and improving their motility and morphology.
  2. Zinc: Zinc is essential for testosterone production and sperm development. It also helps in maintaining the structural integrity of sperm cells.
  3. Folinic Acid: Folinic acid aids in DNA synthesis and repair, contributing to healthy sperm production.
  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids help regulate reproductive hormones and promote blood flow to the genital area, supporting overall reproductive health.
  5. *Ubiquinol: Ubiquinol is essential for sperm overall health. It provides antioxidant protection, is needed for mitochondrial function (assists with energy production of ATP in the mitochondria to supply energy for the sperm to swim) and improves sperm motility and morphology – as it is protective against oxidative stress and enhances mitochondrial function. It needs to be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle and not as a stand-alone supplement.

 

Incorporating these nutrients into the diet through foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish can significantly benefit sperm health.

 

The Importance of Sperm Tests

 

microscopic view of sperm under the microscope

Sperm – a deep indepth anaylisis

Sperm tests, also known as semen analysis, are vital for assessing male fertility. A semen analysis provides valuable information about sperm count, motility, morphology, and other factors that can affect fertility. It helps identify any underlying issues that may be contributing to infertility, allowing for timely intervention and treatment.

 

For couples struggling to conceive, undergoing a sperm test can pinpoint potential problems and guide them towards appropriate fertility treatments, such as assisted reproductive technologies (ART) or lifestyle modifications.

The Impact of Stress on Sperm Production

 

 

Stress, both physical and psychological, can adversely affect sperm production and quality. High levels of stress trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that can disrupt the hormonal balance necessary for sperm production. Chronic stress can also lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, further compromising sperm health.

Effects of stress on sexual health include – low libido, decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction and hormone imbalances.

Moreover, stress may contribute to unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and substance abuse, all of which can negatively impact fertility. Therefore, managing stress through techniques like meditation, exercise, and counselling can help improve sperm quality and overall fertility.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Sperm Health

 

In recent years, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture have gained recognition as potential treatments for male infertility. Several studies and systematic reviews have highlighted their efficacy in improving sperm quality and reproductive outcomes.

 

TCM approaches male infertility holistically, addressing imbalances in the body’s energy flow and restoring harmony to the reproductive system. Acupuncture, a key component of TCM, involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing.

 

Research suggests that acupuncture may enhance sperm quality by improving blood circulation to the testes, reducing inflammation, and balancing hormonal levels. Additionally, TCM herbs and dietary recommendations can complement acupuncture treatments, further supporting male fertility.

 

The decline in male fertility observed over the past two decades calls for increased awareness and proactive measures to address this growing issue. By understanding the parameters of sperm health, incorporating essential nutrients into the diet, prioritizing regular sperm tests, managing stress effectively, and exploring alternative treatments like traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, men can take proactive steps to optimize their reproductive health and increase their chances of conception.

Dr Julia – has 16 years of experience in pathology testing and used to look at sperm under the microscope – improving sperm quality, motility and morphology is one of her main goals.

The decline in sperm is real and it isn’t going away – more awareness and conversations need to be made to bring this major issue to mainstream knowledge.

If you are thinking about starting a family – please ask for a sperm test to be done as a port of first call – it’s non-invasive, quick and gives us a wealth of knowledge on how we can assist with your fertility journey.

As sperm are produced every 120 days – it takes less time to improve them than it does a woman’s egg quality.

I highly recommend both partners coming in for preconception care – even if you need to go to IVF – we work alongside you with your IVF provider – and we work to make you the healthiest version you can be before starting IVF.

It’s never to late to start!

Conclusion:

Sperm health, motility and morphology have severely declined over the last 20 years. Male fertility issues now account for approximately 40% of all fertility issues. While the decline is bad – the news isn’t all bad – sperm are produced every 1230 days – which means that Sperm health is easier to improve and improves quickly compared to females – where we need a year to improve the egg quality.

Sperm need nutrients – zinc, selenium, omega-3 fats and antioxidants. Sperm doesn’t like lots of heat, coffee, and caffeine. Alcohol also leads to dehydration which has a direct effect on sperm production.

Changes to diet, and lifestyle – limiting stress, improving sleep, and taking a male prenatal vitamin can assist with sperm production.

Chinese medicine has been used for thousands of years to assist with male reproductive health – and in doing so not only focuses on reproductive health but the overall health of the male.

When trying to conceive – it takes two!

 

We have both male and female fertility appointments available at Rebalance Chinese Medicine.

Needing assistance – give us a call on 0412 789 772 or book online – http://www.rebalancetcm.com/bookings

 

You may also like to read:

The A-Z of Sperm Analysis – https://www.rebalancetcm.com/male-semen-analysis-the-a-z-of-a-semen-anyalisis-and-why-its-so-vital/

5 Ways to Improve Your Fertility

https://www.rebalancetcm.com/5-ways-to-improve-your-fertility-2/

 

Dr Julia Acupuncturist

Dr Julia Bartrop – Chinese Medicine  Practitioner

References:

  1. Leisegang K, Henkel R. The impact of male lifestyle factors on sperm quality: A narrative review. Andrologia. 2021;53(5):e13763.
  2. Sharma R, Biedenharn KR, Fedor JM, Agarwal A. Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013;11:66.
  3. Zhou K, Zhang J, Xu L, Wu T, Lim CE. Complementary therapies for male infertility: a systematic review of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutritional supplements. Syst Rev. 2018;7(1):26.