Male factor infertility is responsible for 40% of all cases of infertility. In my opinion, the most common misconception when a couple has trouble conceiving is to immediately assume that there is something wrong with the woman. This notion is exhibited both by the woman who naturally takes on guilt and the man who is often reluctant to seek a health assessment (case in point, our patient base consists of at least 80% women).
Here’s what you need to know about male factor infertility:
– the root cause of the issue is either anatomical or physiological
– male factor issues can almost always be overcome!
– spermatogenesis (the process of making sperm) takes 3 months
– hormones involved in this process are FSH, LH, and testosterone
– the average male produces 300 million sperm daily
– varicocele is one of the most common causes of male factor infertility
– it’s important for men to be assessed EARLY in the infertility work-up
– sperm analysis should be done at a fertility clinic for most accurate assessment
– morphology is where the issue is most commonly seen
– apart from a semen analysis, it’s important to run some blood tests (CBC/chem, ferritin, vitamin D, thyroid panel, cultures)
– young athletes or men with a history of anabolic steroid or testosterone use may be sterile but this is reversible!
Naturopathic medicine simply means that we always try to address the root cause. For male factor infertility specifically, there are a number of treatments available to improve sperm parameters, increase sex drive, reduce inflammation, and balance a man’s physiology. These treatments are largely centred around lifestyle changes that are easy to implement. In-office treatments include IV therapy and acupuncture, and at-home nutrient supplementation involves both nutrients and botanicals that have good evidence for treating male factor infertility.
This is always personalized. Depending on the root cause of the problem and the treatment goals, we choose a diet that is right for you, but if you are wanting to get started right away, it’s always a good idea to lean more towards an anti-inflammatory diet.
Sperm is highly sensitive to oxidative stress. The production of excessive amounts of free radicals is thought to contribute to the mechanism behind male factor infertility by promoting sperm cell dysfunction. There is research that glutathione delivered directly to the tissues helps improve sperm count and quality. Other antioxidants like zinc, vitamin E, CoQ10, vitamin C, selenium and lycopene have also been shown to be effective.
3. Botanical medicine.
Agents such as Tongkal Ali have been studied and produced some great results for erectile dysfunction, impotence, infertility and increasing libido. It is important to consult an ND or integrative medicine practitioner prior to self-prescribing botanical medicine to ensure safety and efficacy in your specific case.
This treatment improves overall well being on many different levels. For male factor infertility specifically, it was concluded that men with low fertility potential due to reduced sperm activity may benefit from acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture can also decrease inflammation and strengthen the immune system to indirectly play a role in improving other conditions that may be causing poor sperm quality.