About 40% of fertility issues are said to be due to Male Factor problems (40% female issues and 20% a combination of both). It is also thought that up to 80% of early miscarriages could be caused by faults in the sperm.
In most clinics the men will only be offered a standard Semen Analysis, which only looks at the motility (the movement), morphology (shape) and concentration (quantity) of the sperm but cannot tell its quality. Consultants then use deduction to determine whether the sperm will cause any issues (i.e. consultants draw the conclusion that if the sperm looks and swims ok then it must be of good enough quality).
At the Natural Fertility Centre we regularly see couples who have been told they have ‘unexplained infertility’ when actually there is a male factor issue. Up to 80% of of men with unexplained infertility may have sperm DNA damage. We now offer the SpermComet® DNA Damage Test and we may recommend it before a couple begins IVF treatment. It can detect underlying damage in sperm so it provides at least one diagnosis for these ‘difficult to treat’ couples. Sperm DNA damage is treatable with lifestyle changes and nutritional therapy.
Issues such as 'debris', 'agglutination' and higher than normal round blood cells (all possible indicators of infection) are also often overlooked whereas, in the US for example, these would be treated with antibiotics just in case it was effecting the sperm's ability to reach and fertilise and egg.
We have often seen with our couples that that improving diet (simple things like increasing fluid intake but more especially working on antioxidant levels), decreasing stress and improving certain lifestyle factors can have a positive impact on sperm. If there are any suspected issues with sperm - even if you're told the Semen Analysis shows you to be "within the normal range", it is still worth making a few changes but cutting out smoking, cutting down on alcohol and coffee and getting moderate exercise. All these things are good for your body in general and will help blood flow and nutrient levels. Finding out which vitamins and minerals you might be low on also helps as these are depleted by a busy lifestyle (our bodies use up more of them when we're under stress). Taking the basic step of adding in some zinc and selenium to your diet can help to improve matters to some extent but it's useful to have a consultation with our nutritionist in order to make a big difference.
Other related issues such as erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, retarded ejaculation and premature ejaculation can also be treated using a combination of herbal medicine, acupuncture and counselling or hypnotherapy as necessary. Acupuncture & herbs concentrate on strengthening the 'kidney' energy (to do with genetics and reproduction), boosting blood flow, reducing stress and has also be shown to improve sperm motility and morphology.
Varioceles and other physical problems can often be looked into and surgically remedied by the right specialist - we can help you with that.
Psychologically, men like to know that there's nothing wrong with them - as do women - but, even if fertility issues are definitely on the female side, it's still important to do what you can to improve what you've got. Even if it's just to show your partner that you're willing to work with them and do your bit. We know that men generally don't like taking supplements, seeing a nutritionist or coming for acupuncture, but if it's going to help your partner and keep your relationship strong then it's worth doing even if you think it has no intrinsic benefit. You can sit back and know you're doing your best and working as a team.