Needless to say when it comes to our bits and things going wrong with them we don’t want to talk about it let alone submit to a doctor’s examination. When men are asked, they will usually use the excuse that they were too busy to go. However, when we delve further it is often tied into their masculinity. Men don’t want to be perceived as weak, and the older they get, the less likely they are to go. The fear of the diagnosis is also a major factor.
But things are changing. Apart from being able to Google your symptoms anonymously, (we all do that) campaigns like Movember (Testicular Cancer) and March for Men (Prostate Cancer) have caught men’s imagination.
There is however one health issue that is still taboo – male infertility.
Whereas the narrative is usually around women, it is now shifting towards men. WebMD reported that an estimated 10% of men are infertile, and the male partner is a factor in up to 50% of infertile couples. In many cases, the cause of male infertility is unknown. Previous studies of acupuncture and male infertility have suggested that acupuncture can improve sperm production and motility (a measure of sperm movement).
Researchers looked at the effects of acupuncture on the structural health of sperm in men with infertility of unknown cause.
Twenty-eight infertile men received acupuncture treatments twice a week for five weeks, and 12 received no treatment and served as a comparison group. Researchers analysed sperm samples at the beginning and end of the study and found significant improvements in sperm quality in the acupuncture group compared with the other group. Acupuncture treatment was associated with fewer structural defects in the sperm and an increase in the number of normal sperm in ejaculate.
But there’s also evidence that men have a biological clock.
A survey study of 1976 British women reported a five times greater increase in time to pregnancy in men aged 45 and older, compared with men under 25. To evaluate pregnancy rates in different age groups, a French study examined 901 cycles of intrauterine artificial insemination. They found that the most significant factor contributing to probability of pregnancy was the age of the male partner. So age is a factor for both men and women.
How can acupuncture help? (Stener-Victorin 2010)
lowering scrotal temperature (Siterman 2009);
enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing the diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles (Komori 2009);
reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003)
by improving sperm maturation in the epididymis, increasing testosterone levels, and reducing liquid peroxidation of sperm (Crimmel 2001)
Fertility is complicated, but acupuncture has been shown to make a difference and is commonly used independently and alongside IVF to improve pregnancy rates.
We’ve had a few Peachy babies ourselves!
I understand that fertility is a difficult and emotive issue for all concerned. And with men, it taps into their very masculinity. So I think it’s important to take a holistic view of what is ultimately a multifaceted health issue. Chinese Medicine takes into account your diet, stress levels, emotions and physiology. It focuses on you.
Andy Levy BSc Hons, MBAcC, LicTuiNa, MRTCM
Andy is Associate Acupuncturist at Peachy Acupuncture