When patients come to The Yinova Center for fertility treatment we always ask if they or their partner, if they have one, has had a semen analysis. Women* who are not getting pregnant often assume that the problem lies with them and many are surprised to find out that for 40% of infertile couples the problem is male factor*.
The semen analysis measures a number of aspects of male fertility
- Semen Count – Anything over 20 million sperm per milliliter is considered normal.
- Morphology – This measures the shape of the sperm. A sample is considered normal if more than 30% of the sperm is a regular shape. But some labs assess morphology differently so it’s important to consult your doctor on what is normal.
- Motility – This looks at whether the sperm can swim and are able to move forward. A sample where more than 60% of the sperm has a good forward motion is considered normal.
- Volume – This measures the semen volume with any measurement between 1 ml and 6.5 ml being considered normal.
- Liquefaction – When semen is first produced it has a gel-like consistency. This gel is formed by proteins from the seminal vesicles which are broken up as the semen becomes more liquid. It normally takes less than 20 minutes for a semen sample to change from a gel to a liquid. An abnormally long liquefaction time may indicate an infection.
- Other – the test may also look for white blood cells that may indicate an infection, the PH of the sample, and fructose levels.
The good news is that new sperm generates every 72 days and so they can affect their fertility quite quickly by making lifestyle adjustments. However, it is also important that they see an MD to make sure that there are no underlying hormonal or structural problems that are affecting their reproductive ability. At The Yinova Center, we are big fans of Dr. Harry Fisch who is a Professor of Clinical Urology at Columbia University and the author of two books on reproduction The Male Biological Clock: The Startling News About Aging, Sexuality, and Fertility in Men and Size Matters: The Hard Facts About Male Sexuality That Every Woman Should Know. Size Matters, his latest book, is a light-hearted guide to male sexuality; it is a big favorite in The Yinova Center waiting room! A Urologist, like Dr. Fisch, will look for and correct medical problems that are affecting semen quality.
Here at The Yinova Center, our role is to offer gentle, complementary solutions that work hand-in-hand with your doctor’s advice.
- Acupuncture – Several credible studies such as this one and this one have shown that regular acupuncture treatment can have an impact on semen quality.
- Herbal Medicine – Here at Yinova we find that Chinese herbs are very helpful in improving all aspects of sperm quality. Our experience is born out in studies such as this one. We prescribe our herbs in individual formulas which contain about 15 herbs. Each formula is prescribed individually and tailored to your specific needs.
- Diet – We encourage all our patients to eat as much organic, unprocessed food as possible but this is particularly important when trying to conceive because repeated studies have shown that environmental toxins have a negative impact on sperm quality and count. As many of you know sperm counts have decreased dramatically in all men* over the last 50 years which can be attributed to the huge amount of toxic chemicals we all take in these days.
- Drugs and alcohol – Smoking, whilst it does not reduce sperm count, does damage sperm DNA which can lead to a greater chance of miscarriage. Excessive alcohol use can affect hormone levels and lead to atrophy of the semeniferous tubules, loss of sperm cells, and an increase in abnormal sperm. Marijuana use has been shown to reduce sperm count and semen volume. If you need help dropping unhealthy habits just ask us.
- Weight – Being overweight affects sperm count and sperm motility as this study shows. From research, it would seem that even being a little overweight can reduce fertility and those who are obese have a greater chance of being infertile all together. We are happy to help you meet your weight loss goals so please ask. You’ll find us an unjudgmental lot when it comes to weight and we are happy to share with you what has worked for us.
- Ask us about nutritional supplements. The antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamins C and E can increase sperm count and motility. In fact, studies show that large doses of vitamin C can actually reverse some cases of male infertility*. We recommend Vitamin C, 1000 mg each day, as well as Vitamin E 600 IU, beta-Carotene (provitamin A) 2000 IU 15 Mg and Zinc 30 mg, which may also help increase sperm count. A B Complex supplement can help balance testosterone and LH/FSH secretions. Selenium 100 mcg deficiency causes fragile sperm with easily broken tails. Semen is high in selenium so it must be replenished regularly. Selenium is toxic in large doses so don’t take more than 200 mcg days, we recommend 100mcg. One double-blind trial found that sperm counts doubled in previously infertile men after supplementation with selenium. CO-Q-10 50mg a day has been shown to increase sperm counts. An Italian study found that 2 gms a day of L-Carnitine for three months dramatically improved sperm counts and mobility. L-Arginine has shown good results in studies on both sperm counts and motility we recommend 2 -4 gm.
- Stay Cool – sperm develop best in cool surroundings and there is plenty of research implicating everything from hot baths to laptop computers in lowered sperm counts.
* Language used in the studies referenced.