Conception = (1) Penetration of an ovum by a spermatozoon, with the initiation of a new individual and the state of pregnancy. The formation of a zygote. (2) the individual zygote or embryo so formed. - From Collins Dictionary of Medicine.
Working with clients who are looking to conceive is a wondrous and eventful journey for any practitioner.
We are looking at the making of a baby and this does take 2 people to create, so we need to look at both of the people involved which means the man and not just the woman.
As such I always look to encourage the male partner to receive support through the journey. It is most common for the woman to be the first person to take charge and make contact about this, which is great but I always ask them to speak to their partner about either having treatments with me or referring them onto someone else if they can’t see me.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that 1 in every 4 couples in developing countries has been found to be affected by infertility and the NHS states that 1 in every 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving.
One of the biggest studies of male fertility was conducted in France, and the results published in 2012 and it made headlines in most of the newspapers.
In this it showed that between 1989 and 2005 the average sperm counts fell by a third, which increased the risk of infertility.
The study looked at 26,000 men. They believe that in some countries this figure could be as high as a 50% drop. Along with this the percentage of sperm with abnormalities has increased and sperm motility has decreased sufficiently.
So what has changed over the years to cause these statistical changes? Much of it seems to be linked in with lifestyle, environment and diet.
Statistically any issues with conception and miscarriage can be equally due to male factors as well as female ones. Women are born with their full quota of eggs and this cannot be altered. However, men produce sperm as they need it from puberty onwards.
Reproduction in men is controlled by hormones, just like it is in women. For men this begins at puberty where Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinising hormone (LH) control the production of sperm and testosterone. The sperm start life in the convoluted loops of the seminiferous tubules within the testes. It’s here where the cells begin to take shape and produce the sperm, which consists of a head containing the nucleus and various enzymes, a body which contains the mitochondria for energy and the tail for swimming.
The sperm move from the seminiferous tubules into the epididymis where it is stored until needed. During the time of ejaculation the sperm moves into the vas deferens. From here they travel into the urethra where the seminal vesicle and prostate glands secrete their fluids which mix with the sperm to produce semen. About 10-20% of semen is made up of sperm. The semen also contains a variety of nutrients which nourish and protect the sperm.
Looking at conception the timing needs to be right otherwise the sperm are blocked by a mucus plug in the woman’s cervix which stops the sperm from entering any further into the uterus. During their most fertile time the women will notice a change in their cervical mucus. This signifies that the mucus has softened and opened the entrance to the womb. In fact the mucus can actually help the sperm to travel and can provide important nutrients.
The average ejaculation produces about 200-250 million sperm. They have a 20cm distance to travel, along which they use the cervical mucus to travel upwards. Out of this large quantity of sperm approximately only 1% (about 1 million) goes from vagina to cervix.
The faulty, damaged and dead sperm all get left behind.
Sperm are foreign to a woman’s body and as such her natural immune system triggers her white cells in the uterus to destroy any number of sperm.
Eventually only about 20-100 sperm will reach the fallopian tube where fertilisation occurs.
There are still issues here if the timing is wrong or the woman’s body does not like the sperm there is no chance for fertilisation.
Recent research has shown that a woman may be far more in control of this final event than was previously thought, as her body can make specific chemicals to cause the sperm to sleep in the fallopian tube walls until needed (for about 3-5 days). However, even after this marathon task if a sperm is a damaged once it reaches the egg either fertilisation will not occur or it could lead to deformities and miscarriage.
In order to fertilise the egg and produce a healthy baby the sperm needs to be:
- Produced in sufficient quantities
- Be living
- Properly formed
- Be healthy
Preconceptual care for men
The production of sperm can take about 3 to 4 months from start to finish. So if a man is looking to make any dietary or lifestyle changes any work that he does today will reap the rewards in 3 to 4 months time.
Some of the factors that I ask my male clients to look at from the start of their reflexology sessions include the following:
- Vitamin and mineral intake in the body - Zinc and magnesium are essential for sperm shape and motility. Zinc and the amino acid arginine forms the sperm head and supplementing these have been found to help sperm count. Low levels of selenium were found to give low sperm count and abnormally shaped sperm. Potassium has been reported to help with motility. Other nutrients to possible increase include vitamins A, B12, C and E.
- Reduction in caffeine and alcohol intake – both found to reduce sperm motility
- Reduce saturated fats, refined sugars and salt from the diet
- Transfer to organic foods – and also to eat less processed and tinned foods. The organic meats and dairy products will also contain fewer hormones which could disrupt the male hormones.
- Stop smoking – cigarettes contain the heavy metal cadmium
- No recreational drugs
- Keep cool – the testes need to be 2 degrees cooler than normal body temperature to produce sperm. Mobile phones in pockets, laptops on the lap, cookers, cycling, saunas and tight pants will all increase the amount of heat in the reproductive area.
- Drink filtered water – filtered water is important to keep levels of heavy metals including lead down. Also keeping hydrated will aid the semen.
- Exercise – not too aggressive or heat producing. Gentle yoga (not hot yoga) is perfect.
- Stress relief – any stress reducing hobbies that don’t include any of the above is great. Reflexology itself can be classed in this category.
I would say that you should enable yourself with as much information and education as you possibly can. You can do courses, read books, go on seminars, look online and the list goes on. This involves looking at all aspects of your life - lifestyle, diet, work, personal life, types of exercise, stress management etc. With male reproduction, reflexology can be a great aid in stress reduction which has been shown to be a precursor to sperm issues.
- World Health Organisation
- Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority
- Planning for A Healthy Baby – Belinda Barnes and Suzanne Gail Bradley
- Balancing Hormones naturally – Kate Neil and Patrick Holford
- Adverse Effects of Zinc deficiency – a review from the literature by Tuula E. Tuorman
- Fertility and Conception – Zita West
- Biology the Science of Life – Wallace, Sanders, Ferl
- Male Infertility - Belinda Barnes
- Adverse Effects of Lead – Tuula E. Tuormaa
- Inside the Human Body – Michael Mosley for BBC
All content within Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies and Rima Shah are not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of the Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies website or blog. Calm and Clear Complementary Therapies is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. for more information. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.