Now, you would never usually catch me advising patients to bring behaviours from the boardroom into the bedroom, but on this occasion I think the business gurus are onto something – and it’s a key to improving male fertility.
By Amanda Gordon, Acupuncturist at Life + Lemons
In the business world, a new leader’s first 100 days in the job is seen as a defining period; the crucial time to make your mark and set the foundations for enduring success. Scan the business or leadership section in any bookshop and you are bound to find a book or two on the topic, along with hundreds of other volumes on how we can all be brilliant, successful humans at work.
But when it comes to male fertility, why are those shelves so empty?
Male factor fertility is a contributor in half of infertility cases – yet there is so much less emphasis on male fertility than female fertility, and so many fewer resources to support men seeking to improve their chances of conception. Fortunately, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and western physiology have so much to offer – and we can borrow some gems of wisdom from our friends the business experts on how to bring it all together into a powerful plan for fertility success.
So why is a 100 day plan so important?
The business experts will tell you that success in a new role starts with careful preparation long before you set foot in the office on day one. Likewise, preparing for fatherhood starts long before sperm meets egg. To lay the foundations for conception and foetal health, we need to start thinking about the health of both parents from around 3 months before conception. From a western physiological perspective, for men this is the window of time when sperm are forming – sperm develop in the testicles for 50-60 days, and mature for a further 14 days in the sperm-maturing tube called the epididymis. Therefore the few months before conception are an essential time to invest in producing not only many (count) but also healthy (morphology) and mobile (motility) sperm to maximise chances of successful conception and a healthy pregnancy.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, male fertility is all about the Kidneys in TCM terms – we need strong Kidney Jing and a good balance of Kidney Yin and Yang for fertility. It is clinically very common to see male patients present with either Kidney Yin or Kidney Yang deficiency – conditions that are often brought on or worsened by overwork and lack of rest. We also often see specific conditions that can arise from Kidney deficiency, namely Damp-Heat and Blood Qi Stagnation that can damage sperm morphology and impair healthy flow. Depending on the individual picture, we can utilise acupuncture and herbal medicine alongside integrated lifestyle and nutritional advice to help resolve imbalances and nourish the Kidneys and best results often come from regular treatment over 10-12 weeks.
What else can we borrow from the business gurus to help improve male fertility?
For me there are two more crucial lessons – firstly, you have got to take a whole-systems approach to fertility, and secondly, you get the best results from a happy team. Let’s take those in turn.
To take a truly integrated, whole-systems approach to fertility it is critical to understand the incredible range of factors that research tells us can impact on fertility and sperm health. For example, oxidative stress can damage sperm DNA through the cumulative damage caused by free radicals. Sources of oxidative stress include pollutants, cigarette and drug use, poor diet and raised testicular temperature (I’m talking about laptops on laps, saunas, hot baths), among other things – resulting in poor morphology. Similarly, pressure on the testicles can impair sperm motility – think tight jeans, lots of cycling. So just as you wouldn’t expect a new CEO to achieve great things by sitting in their office with their head in a spreadsheet, our approach to planning for optimal fertility includes taking a broader view and including steps to make all areas of your lifestyle conducive to better fertility.
Finally, we all know how teamwork makes the dream work, right? Fertility and conception is a joint effort between you and your partner, and supporting both of your physical and emotional health, and your relationship health, through the process is key. Fertility, especially if we have embarked on medical investigations and support, can feel like “a time of pressure and intense scrutiny” (this is actually a business guru’s quote about the first 100 days, but it feels about right doesn’t it?) and it can be easy to scoff at advice to avoid stress. But there are plenty of reasons to put it at the top of your list and at the heart of your plan – in TCM terms, excess stress can stagnate the Liver qi and tax the Spleen and Kidneys, exacerbating some of those pathologies we mentioned earlier that might be impairing your fertility. But did you also know that female cervical mucus and the uterine contractions of orgasm actually help propel sperm to where they need to be, and that regular sex both helps ensure sperm are in optimal condition (in most cases) and that you make the most of the fertile window? So investing energy in your emotional health and happiness and in your partnership is incredibly important and worthwhile. Having a shared commitment to the process, and showing up for your own health and for your partner, is (in clinical terms) super sexy.
So, strange as it may seem, sometimes taking our health as seriously as we take our work can be a strategy that really pays dividends.
Perhaps I have convinced you of why making a 100 day plan for improving male fertility is such a great plan, what next?
Our experienced clinical team at Life + Lemons can support you both individually and as a couple to formulate an integrated plan for optimal fertility and provide tailored acupuncture, herbal, nutritional and lifestyle support. To find out more contact us in clinic by clicking on the below links to book a free initial consultation and to check out my Instagram page where you will find a multitude of useful blogs ranging from fertility to hormones to pain management.
By Amanda Gordon. PG Dip Ac, BA (Oxon), MSc, MBAcC. Acupuncturist
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Kimberley, Acupuncturist and Clinic Director at Life + Lemons, is a registered TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) Acupuncturist, passionate about helping women reclaim their feminine edge. After graduating with a First Class Honors in York, she has undertaken specialist training in the area of pain management, natural conception, IVF support, menopause + pelvic pain (endometriosis/dysmenorrhea).