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Infertility is defined by doctors as the failure of a couple to achieve pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse.
In men, infertility is usually associated with a decrease in the number, quality, or motility (power of movement) of sperm. There are multiple possible underlying causes for male infertility, some of which readily respond to natural medicine, while others do not. The specific cause of infertility should always be diagnosed by a physician before considering possible solutions.
The inability of a couple to become pregnant after one year of regular, unprotected sex may indicate infertility of one or both sexual partners. Low sperm count in the semen, decreased sperm motility, or abnormal shape of the sperm are responsible for infertility in about 40% of these couples.
Some conventional medications can interfere with fertility. If in doubt, men taking prescription drugs should consult their physician.
The optimal temperature of the testes for sperm production is slightly lower than body temperature, which is why the testes hang away from the body in the scrotum. Men with low sperm counts are frequently advised to minimize lifestyle factors that may overheat the testes, such as wearing tight (e.g., “bikini-style”) underwear or frequently using spas and hot baths.
Environmental exposures (e.g., formaldehyde), smoking, and use of recreational drugs (e.g., marijuana, cocaine, hashish) may reduce sperm count or cause abnormal sperm morphology (shape).1, 2 Smoking adversely affects the semen quality of infertile men.3
Acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of male infertility due to impairment of sperm function. A controlled study of men with reduced sperm function found that one measure of sperm function significantly improved in the men treated with acupuncture (two times per week for five weeks) compared to controls.4 Similar results have been reported in other studies.5, 6 Nevertheless, double-blind trials are needed to determine conclusively whether acupuncture is a useful treatment for male infertility.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.