Acupuncture for Male Fertility
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history of treating men’s health problems with texts from 200 BC describing acupuncture techniques and medicinal plants to assist with men’s libido and fertility. Today Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have adapted and incorporated these traditional applications to work alongside modern fertility treatments such as ART/IVF procedures. Although the focus is often on women in fertility issues, the reality is that men share 50% of the responsibility in the creation of a healthy embryo. The practitioners at our Natural Medicine Clinic in Melbourne are equally looking for men’s health to give you a complete balanced life.
It takes approximately 116 days for sperm production to be completed so a proactive way to utilize this time is for men to receive acupuncture to improve their sperm quality to increase the chances of the development of a healthy embryo. It is very beneficial for men to receive acupuncture treatment for at least three months prior to starting conception or an IVF procedure. With the help of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it may be possible to improve the quality and quantity of sperm and improve the overall quality of semen. This, in turn, may increase the chances of creating a healthy and viable embryo which may result in a more secure implantation.
In TCM there are several disease mechanisms that can affect sperm production and quality. In TCM the Kidneys (which is not to be confused with kidney organ function in western medicine), is the most important organ involved in fertility. In TCM your Kidney Essence or “Jing” is responsible for the quality and vitality of sperm and follicles. Therefore with most cases of infertility the TCM practitioner focuses on improving one’s Kidney Essence.
There are three main causes of male infertility according to TCM and they are: Kidney deficiency, Qi & Blood stagnation and Damp heat. These can occur separately or may occur together.
Kidney deficiency: This can be seen in such cases as low testosterone levels, impotence or the ability to sustain an erection, a very low sperm count or no live sperm seen in ejaculate. The male may also suffer with exhaustion, low libido and a sore, weak lower back.
Qi and Blood stagnation: This includes all conditions which obstruct the passage of sperm such as trauma to the testes and conditions such as varicocele.
Damp Heat: This can occur if the male has suffered with any recurrent genitourinary infection such as prostatitis or chronic low grade untreated infections. In Western countries this cause is uncommon because antibiotics are usually used promptly to address any infections.
The TCM practitioner then selects specific acupuncture points to help address these conditions and may also prescribe Chinese herbs, and lifestyle and dietary advice. Acupuncture treatment may consist of weekly or twice weekly treatments.
From a Western medical perspective it is unexplained how acupuncture can improve sperm quality and count, however research has shown that acupuncture can enhance levels of metenkephalins.
- There have also been studies that indicate that this substance (metenkephalins), present in semen, promotes the motility of sperm. Therefore acupuncture may be of some help where motility is an issue.
- A number of other research studies have shown that acupuncture can increase sperm count.
Acupuncture can be used alone to support male fertility or alongside modern reproductive technology, such as IVF, as a complementary modality to not only help improve the overall quality of sperm and health of the individual but can also provide a method of relaxation and stress reduction for men!
(1) Bensourssan, A. 1990, The vital meridian. Churchill livingstone, Melbourne, p 122. (2) Fujisawa M, Kanaki M, Orkada H, Arakawa, S Kamidono, S. 1996, Metenkephalin in seminal plasma of infertilie men. International Journal of Urology 3(4), pp 297-300
Written by Juanita Jolly, Acupuncturist, TCM practitioner. Juanita can be contacted at Balance Complementary Medicine.