Sperm health and what you can do to improve it
With Melbourne Cup day coming up, I thought it was fitting to talk about another kind of race that goes on inside… the sperm to the egg!
You may have heard that sperm rates have been declining in the past few decades. It is a problem, but there are also things you can do to help those little guys out.
Why are sperm rates declining?
Many things could be contributing here...
Lifestyle- lack of or too much exercise, not drinking enough water, drug use (including anabolic steroids), too much caffeine, smoking, alcohol intake, poor dietary choices, obesity, stress, inadequate sleep.
Environmental- pollutants, environmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, chemicals, radiation.
Other factors to consider with male infertility- congenital anomalies, genetic diseases, testicular trauma, varicocele, infections, hormonal imbalances, certain medications.
What you can do to improve your sperm:
Ensure adequate water intake (1.5-3L per day)
Reduce caffeine intake (limit to 1-2 per day maximum)
Keep active, but exercise in moderation (aim for about 5x per week, and choose something you enjoy while you’re at it)
Keep a good diet with plenty of fruit + veg (think lots of colour for antioxidants), good variety, limiting too much processed meats/fats/takeaway foods
Address stress levels
Get adequate sleep (at least 6-8hrs a night of decent sleep)
Be mindful of and limit chemical exposure (use good PPI), and keep technology away from the testes (no phones in pockets)
Keep the testes cool and avoid prolonged heat (spas, saunas etc)
Limit alcohol and avoid smoking/drug use
Regular ejaculation, every 2-3 days (you want to be 'cleaning the pipes', allowing a healthy turnover)
Get acupuncture and/or take the appropriate prescribed supplements/herbal medicines
If you have been struggling to conceive, get tests done to figure out what's going on.
What tests do you want to see?
The main test is a semen analysis*. This looks at morphology (ie whether the sperm have proper size/shape/make-up), volume of ejaculate + sperm concentration, and motility (how many of the sperm are moving in the right direction). Blood tests are also important, and if necessary an extra test for sperm DNA fragmentation may be recommended.
*You'll need to go through your GP/fertility specialist to get this. When doing a sperm test, it’s best to do it at a fertility clinic or have the semen analysed within at least 60min (ideally, within 30min) of collection, and collect the whole ejaculate. Allow 3 days abstinence prior to the test and don’t do the test while sick.
How does Chinese medicine + Acupuncture help improve sperm?
We will be looking at your blood and sperm tests and your overall health to determine what plan of action we need to take in your case, as differs for everyone. This will likely include acupuncture (on the arms, legs, back and/or abdomen), Chinese herbal medicine, and supplementation, all focused to improve sperm quality and overall health. Education around tracking ovulation and timing of intercourse is important here too.
How long will it take to improve sperm?
Allow at least 3 months. It depends on your results, your health, adherence to the lifestyle changes and treatment. It takes about 2-3 months to produce sperm from start to finish. So what you from today impacts the sperm you will ejaculate in approx. 2-3 months time (you can’t just take a preconception when your partner is ovulating!). If you are going through or thinking about IVF, we can work to support the process.
I hope this helps! If you’re struggling with fertility issues, please reach out for support, try these lifestyle tips, or at least learn more here via IVF Australia.
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Kirsten Wolfe, Fertile Life Seminar 2023
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Semen analysis. IVF Australia. Available at: https://www.ivf.com.au/planning-for-pregnancy/male-fertility/semen-analysis.