Men have been sadly ignored in the fertility world for far too long. Vets and farmers know the benefits of feeding their animals a diet rich in specific nutrients. In fact there has probably been more research done on bull and stallion sperm than human sperm! However, new research is highlighting the importance of the male role and I am lucky enough to work with some of the best male fertility specialists in the UK. My experience in that field helps me to recognise the need for referral to a specialist and I hope to do my MSc research project in the area of male fertility. I do recognize that the last thing a man wants is to give up time to discuss his sperm and his diet – hell! So I really try to make our consultations easy, laid back, factual, evidence-based and interesting. After all the DNA of an embryo is 50% from the man and making the sperm as good as possible is the aim; you want to tick all the boxes and give it your best shot and nutrition can dramatically improve sperm quality.
Here is a case study showing results of sperm tests before and after a nutritional consultation with me. This was a very interesting case as the person concerned wanted to become a sperm donor, but unfortunately there were several problems with the sperm and he was told he couldn’t. However he was extremely determined and highly motivated and was willing to completely take on board all my suggestions, and so it really was fantastic to see such a dramatic change in the sperm quality. He subsequently was accepted as a donor.
Before consultation, March 2010 This sample was viscous, showing a slightly high pH. If semen remains too thick this may affect the ability of the sperm to move. If the sperm is too alkali it may indicate a problem with the prostate gland which should produce seminal fluid that is slightly acid, or a lower pH.
Motility was poor with not enough sperm swimming in a straight line (progressively). There were also some anti-sperm antibodies present in the sample. These can prevent fertilization by sticking to the sperm, particularly the head. Sperm then can’t recognize the egg or penetrate it, and they also stick to each other.
The vast majority of the sperm in this sample were abnormally shaped, which again causes problems with adherence to and penetration of the egg. However just how many abnormal sperm you have before fertilization is severely affected depends on the criteria used – the WHO define >85% (so <15% normal) as causing problems, but using strict Kruger criteria > 95% (< 5% normal) is believed to severely impair fertility. And of course it depends on the count too. If you have a very high count you can afford to have more abnormal sperm than if you have a lower count. This client had a moderate count of 37 million, above the 20 million defined as being in the ‘fertile’ range.
After consultation, October 2010 Here you can see a massive improvement. Although the semen is still viscous and there is debris, the pH has dropped. The count has almost doubled to a very satisfactory 64 million and the motility is now well within the normal range. There are no longer anti-sperm antibodies and the morphology is within the normal (Kruger) range. The client was absolutely delighted as you can imagine!
This is recently received testimonial from a lovely client who had been through a hard old slog with several failed IVFs. He was referred to me by Dr Sheryl Homa at Andrology Solutions (who probably knowns more about sperm than anyone else on the planet) and he just threw himself into everything. Again he was very highly motivated and could see the relationship between nutrition and lifestyle changes and optimum sperm. And at last, they got there in the end.