Male Fertility: It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right

If you are like most couples, you are spending a lot of time, energy, and potentially a lot of money on testing and treating the woman. With 50% of infertility cases having some male factor, you might be missing the mark. Male factor infertility is cheaper and easier to diagnose and often can be addressed by naturopathic treatments such as diet improvements, herbal medicine, and a few choice supplements.

Testing for male fertility does seem to be a barrier for some men. Many labs and fertility clinics will now allow men to bring their semen sample in to the clinic rather than produce it on site, provided the specimen is maintained at body temperature and delivered in a timely manner. Check with your local lab for more information on specimen handling.

When sperm is tested, the lab looks at three main things: sperm count, morphology, and mobility.

Sperm count is the number of sperm observed in the sample. A normal result is considered above 39 million per ejaculate. Note that the median levels reported by the World Health Organization are 255 million per ejaculate. This means that when sperm count is below 255 million, it is below average.

Morphology refers to the shape of the sperm. Subpar morphology indicates DNA problems. A normal shaped sperm has a smooth oval head with a long tail attached to its base. Morphology of the sample is considered normal if 4% or more of the sample has this shape. Abnormalities that sperm might exhibit include a crooked double tail or a head malformation. The sperm tail propels it forward toward the egg for conception; if it is malformed, transit to the egg can be disrupted. The head of the sperm penetrates the egg; if it is malformed, penetration can be prevented.

Mobility refers to how the sperm are “swimming.” Good swimmers move quickly and in the correct direction while bad swimmers move slowly or not at all. Strong mobility is considered more than 50%.

Prevention Is the Best Cure

Common causes for problems with sperm include DNA damage, genetic predisposition, and hormone production. In a typical and uncomplicated case, all of the sperm issues — mobility, morphology, and count — can be improved.

Pesticides – Many studies have documented the effects that exposure to pesticides has on sperm. These chemicals can cause a decrease in sperm count and change in morphology and can affect testosterone production. It is important to eat organic whenever possible. Check out the EWG dirty dozen and clean fifteen to find out which foods are most important to get organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

Bisphenol A – This chemical is found in plastics and is recognized by the body as an estrogen. Reduced exposure can improve sperm quality and count. Avoid eating or drinking out of plastic containers, limit your exposure to receipts (yes, receipts contain bisphenol A), and avoid using other plastic items as well, such as plastic forks and spoons and plastic bags.

Radiation – Get the laptops off the lap! Take the cell phone out of the pocket! Laptops and smart phones emit large amounts of radiation and should not be placed directly on top of or nearby the sperm production house, the testes.

Quit smoking – The chemicals in cigarettes are cellular oxidants and cause DNA damage. For the best quality sperm, don’t smoke!

Which Supplements Help?

Anti-oxidants

found in colorful fruits and vegetables and can counteract the harmful effects of smoking, pesticides, and other DNA-damaging chemicals

L carnitine

amino acid regarded for improving sperm quality and sperm count

CO Q 10

potent antioxidant that can help improve sperm quality (commonly used, especially by older men)

Maca

South American herb that has been shown to improve libido, sperm quality, and sperm count (great fertility herb!)

No two people are alike. Improving sperm quality and count requires an individualized approach. To make an appointment with Dr. Elise, contact Blossom Clinic.

Blossom Clinic website
☏ 503.287.0886

It Takes Two

Taking Care Before You Conceive: Preconception Health

poppy bloomingThere is a lot of information out there about what to do with our diet and what vitamins to take once we are pregnant. However, what about the months before pregnancy? Does that time matter? Some say yes indeed it does. Let’s take a minute to think about that.

During pregnancy a woman’s body provides not only nutrition to the growing fetus, it also is the environment in which the fetus lives.  Before conception, a woman’s diet,  her environment, and what she is exposed to can affect the health and quality of the ovum, or the egg.  The quality of the ovum, will determine the health of her baby.  This is called epigenetics.  Epi what?  Basically, epigenetics refers to the way the genes form and are expressed.  The development of the egg/ovum can be effected by many external environmental or dietary factors.  To read more about epigenetics, check out the blog entry Epigenetics: Beyond Heredity.

What does all this mean? It is important to take care of your body before pregnancy.

We are what we eat.  I mean that quite literally, as every cell in our body is made up of the building blocks we give it (food).  Other things can affect the health of a cell as well — toxins, pollutants, and xenoestrogens (hormone disruptors), to name a few. So, we aren’t just what we eat, we are also where we live, what we choose to put on our skin, the air we breathe, and more!

Of interest is that such factors as food and environment are not just important today but for many days to follow.  The life cycles of cells in our bodies are varied — blood cells live for about 100 days, a skin cell lives about 20 days, and an ovum (egg) takes about three months to go from hibernation to ovulation. Our cells are comprised of what we have eaten and been exposed to in at least the last three months.  Therefore, we are not just what we eat today but also what we have eaten the last three months!

Why not take a few months before trying to conceive to prep the body for this very important time in your baby’s life? Optimize your egg quality, baby’s environment, and building blocks by improving your health. See your naturopathic doctor at least three months prior to trying to conceive for a treatment plan that can help you do this. Or, if you are already trying to conceive, see your naturopath now for tips on how to maximize your body’s fertility signals and the pregnancy environment. It’s the ultimate in preventative care!

The side effects of such treatments and caring for your body — increased energy, healthier looking skin and nails, improved moods, fewer aches and pains, and feeling great in general — hmmmdoesn’t sound that bad, does it?

Tune in next time for Part Two of this blog on preconception: Optimizing Hormone Balance to Improve Fertility.


To make an appointment with Dr. Schroeder, please call Blossom Clinic at 503.287.0886.