Around 30% of men suffer from some form of impairment to their fertility according to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority report of 2005. We also know that sperm quality is in decline. Take a look at these results from the World Health Organization (WHO):
WHO 1999-2010 Study
Volume: 1999: 2 ml – 2010: 1.5 ml
Concentration: 1999: 20 million/ml – 2010: 15 million/ml
Progressive motility: 1999: 50% – 2010: 32%
Normal forms: 1999: 14% – 2010: 4%
Researchers found that sperm counts among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand appear to have halved in less than 40 years.
Rather than starting IVF, ICSI, rushing into drug therapy or an invasive surgical procedure, the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach takes into account underlying causes. Chinese Medicine successfully supports men who have been diagnosed with a low sperm count, poor sperm morphology or motility and who are going through the ICSI method of IVF.
I have treated men who have:
• Retrograde ejaculation
• Complete absence of sperm (azoospermia)
• Low sperm count (oligospermia)
• Abnormal sperm shape (teratozoospermia)
• Problems with sperm movement (asthenozoospermia)
• Sperm that is completely immobile (necrozoospermia)
• Erectile dysfunction
• Primary/Secondary gonadotropin deficiency
• Hormonal imbalances
It takes 96 days for sperm reserves to be replaced, so conditions such as poor motility or morphology are treated over a three-month for the best results.
Semen Analysis: Making Male Fertility Measurable
Science can determine the quality of a man’s sperm relatively well by using a Semen Analysis (SA) test. A snapshot sample is produced, analyzed in a laboratory and compared to the WHO’s (World Health Organization) standard values for sperm cells in semen.
The WHO’s standard values have been revised downwards since 1999. To be classed as normal only 1.5ml of ejaculate is expected in samples instead of 2ml, only 15 million sperm cells per milliliter of ejaculate and a normal appearance is expected of just 4% of sperm cells.
As a consequence of this normal sperm sample guideline revision, more samples now lie within normal ranges. However, this change in categorization of sperm samples clearly does not make the quality of the samples any better.
As a general rule, even men whose sperm samples are lower than these reference levels can still get women pregnant. However, the lower the density of sperm in the samples is, the fewer healthy and fast-moving sperm cells are available.
Put simply, fewer good sperm cells in semen means that there is a lower chance of a healthy sperm cell finding its way to an egg and fertilizing it.
Keep in mind, however, that men with high counts may also struggle due to poor motility, or morphology.
We have also written a dedicated article on how to read a semen analysis. You can read this article here.
Reasons for low male fertility
There is no simple answer to the question of which factors have the greatest influence on the quality of male sperm. Scientists are in agreement that the following factors influence sperm production and health negatively:
- Poor nutrition: too few vitamins and antioxidants,
- Exposure to female hormones: increased estrogen levels in drinking water and some processed meats, even soy
- Lifestyle choices: smoking, alcohol and stress, both at home and work.
A man’s fertility is more often restricted (oligospermia or asthenospermia) than entirely absent. Azoospermia, is the medical condition of a man not having any sperm in his semen, which affects about 1% of the male population. Aspermia, the complete lack of semen is much rarer.
Oligospermia, (or oligiozoospermia) refers to semen with a low concentration of sperm (fewer than 20 million cells per millilitre). Asthenospermia is the medical term for reduced sperm motility, i.e. movement. Micronutrients can have astounding results on these restrictive fertility conditions, which has been shown in dozens of different studies.
Improving male fertility with micronutrients
Several micronutrients such as vitamins, amino acids and trace elements have proven themselves effective in improving sperm quantity, mobility and shape. This directly translates into better overall sperm quality and therefore a higher chance of pregnancy.
Natural food supplementation for men is:
- Relatively inexpensive
- Effective after three to six months
- Able to increase sperm motility by up to 23%, ejaculate volume by up to 33% and sperm count by up to 215%5
- Without side effects
For those reasons, male fertility food supplements are most definitely recommended as the first step in the treatment of oligospermia and asthenospermia.
Men who have not yet taken a semen analysis test will benefit from supplementing micronutrients to ensure they are able to deliver high-quality semen. There are no contraindications or side effects to this form of natural ‘sperm boosting’.
An excellent and detailed overview of many studies can be found in Steven Sinclair’s Male Infertility: Nutritional and Environmental Considerations.
A considerable range of male fertility supplements available on the market. The products differ widely in price and composition. Menfertility.org has compared 10 of them in terms of value for money and the nutrients they provide.
What are the most effective male fertility nutrients?
A multitude of studies has shown that highly dosed nutrients have potentially significant impact on overall sperm quality.
The amino acid L-arginine has been proven to increase sperm count and motility
Another amino acid L-carnitine has been found to significantly improve sperm concentration (count) and motility over a relatively short period of only 8 weeks
Vitamin D has been shown to improve sperm count, motility and morphology
Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid has been shown to increase count, motility and morphology
Zinc improves the immune system and significantly improves sperm count in combination with folic acid
Selenium in combination with vitamin E has been found to improve motility
These nutrients must be supplied long-term. Sperm cells take 11 weeks to mature in the testicles. Only then they are ready for ejaculation. If you adjust your diet today it will thus take three months for the better sperm to be ready for fertilization. You must therefore keep the diet or supplement on an ongoing basis – ideally until your partner is pregnant or you decide on a different treatment.