Podcast: All Things Male Infertility


FGHG Naturopath Rhiannon Hardingham was a recent guest speaker on the Love & Guts podcast with host and naturopath Lynda Griparic.

In this episode Rhiannon shares her wealth of knowledge on all things male infertility including:

  • Why there has been a progressive decline in sperm count
  • What impacts sperm quality and count
  • If hydrotherapy, ice baths and coffee impact sperm health
  • Why semen quality is known as a biomarker of male health
  • Semen analysis testing – what to look out for
  • How thyroid function affects sperm health
  • Rhiannon’s strategies for improving male fertility

And so much more

Listen to the podcast here: Love & Guts Podcast – Male Infertility

Acupuncture for improving sperm quality

Acupuncture for Improving Sperm Quality

Do you really need to improve your sperm health and can acupuncture help? If your semen analysis results came back less-than-ideal you are not alone. Male fertility is a common reason people go to IVF with research showing that 40% of infertility cases are due to poor sperm quality. The good news is that research also shows there is a lot you can do about it. Even if your results came back in the okay range you can still improve your sperm-health even further, giving you the best chance of conceiving.

Do I need to improve my sperm?

The answer is that we all probably could! Since 1989, there has been a 30% decrease in sperm count in the general male population and about one in twenty men has a fertility issue, even if they live a seemingly healthy lifestyle. This may be due to the plethora of environmental toxins we are all exposed to that are known or suspected to impact sperm quality.

Like women, men’s fertility also declines with age:

  • A man’s sperm volume drops by 20% between ages of 30 and 50.
  • The sperm motility (i.e. “swimming power”) drops 3.1% for each advancing year, whereas the percentage of sperm who swim in a purposeful manner decrease by 5%.
  • The older the man, the longer the length of time for his female partner to conceive as well as an increased incidence of miscarriage, regardless of her age.

Many men present with borderline sperm counts that have been deemed ‘fine’. There are a number of considerations we would take into account when assessing the values attributed to sperm counts. Firstly, it is important to know that reference ranges account for normal values in a given population. If the whole population has low values, then normal will be somewhere within a range of overall low values. This is shown clearly when looking at research comparing changes in normal values in a population over time. We also see that overall sperm counts have declined rapidly in the years 1935 to the present.

Secondly, during IVF in particular, low sperm counts are not considered to be a problem due to technological advancements that allow doctors to ‘choose the best’ sperm and inject it directly into the egg (Intercytoplasmic Sperm Injection, or ICSI).  From a natural medicine point of view, we would consider it important to improve the condition of the sperm overall to increase the likelihood of obtaining a healthy embryo when a healthy egg and sperm meet.

As an example of how sperm health affects embryo viability, consider that a non-smoking woman has been shown to have a 30% higher chance of miscarriage when her partner is a smoker than a couple who are both non-smokers. Studies have also shown that miscarriage and birth defect rates increase when fathers have lower sperm counts.

How is sperm evaluated for quality?

Sperm is evaluated according to four main parameters:

  • Volume (i.e. how much semen per ejaculation)
  • Density/concentration/count (i.e. how many million/ml)
  • Morphology (i.e. % of normal v. abnormal in shape)
  • Motility (i.e. % of moving/swimming sperm)

If any of these parameters are abnormal, fertility may be compromised.

Can Acupuncture improve sperm quality?

Acupuncture has been found to improve the motility of sperm by improving its zinc:cadmium ratio. Zinc improves sperm motility whereas cadmium causes thicker semen, thereby slowing the sperm. SOD, an antioxidant which increases both sperm count and motility is also positively influenced by acupuncture.  Furthermore, acupuncture can increase levels of metenkephalin (an opioid which allows sperm to remain mobile for longer) in sperm. Therefore, acupuncture around the female’s ovulation may increase the chance of conception.

Acupuncture has been shown to increase the percentage of sperm with normal morphology. Sperm takes between 70 – 90 days to fully mature, with some studies showing positive results after only 5 weeks (bi-weekly treatments). Improving morphology with acupuncture has also been shown to improve the fertilisation rate using Intercytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI, an IVF procedure).

Where do the needles go?

Acupuncture points for improving sperm quality are not located on the genitals! Rather, points on the lower back, lower leg &/or abdomen are used. These points are generally painless and are used to increase a person’s strength and vitality, improve digestion, promote good-quality sleep and relieve stress. Any other health problems are simultaneously addressed during an acupuncture treatment, since we believe that your whole wellbeing is important to the health of your sperm. At Fertile Ground, we consider 10 weekly treatments to be optimal owing to sperm maturation time, although a minimum of 4-5 weekly treatments can still achieve positive results.

What else can help?

Diet and nutrition, lifestyle, weight, exercise, environmental toxins and smoking (including marijuana) also play a huge role in sperm health. We believe the most powerful approach is to make changes in these areas together with having acupuncture to really sky-rocket your fertility. This is were we see the best results. In fact, acupuncture can help with lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and treatment can be tailored to address this along with improving sperm quality.



Research and references
Jensen, TK, Carlsen, E, Jørgensen, N, Berthelsen, JG, Keiding, N, Christensen, K, Petersen, JH, Knudsen, LB and Skakkebæk, NE. 2002. Poor semen quality may contribute to recent decline in fertility rates. Human Reproduction 17(6): 1437-1440.

Paulus WE, Zhang M, Strehler E, El-Danasouri I, Sterzik K. 2002. Influence of acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy.

Siterman S, Eltes F, Wolfson V, Zabludovsky N, Bartoov B. 1997. Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from sub-fertility related to low sperm quality.

Gurfinkel E, Cedenho AP, Yamamura Y, Srougi M. 2003. Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities.

Pei J, Strehler E, Noss U, Abt M, Piomboni P, Baccetti B, Sterzik K. 2005. Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility.

Dong C, Chen SR, Jiang J, Xiao YH, Cai MX, Zhang YJ, Xu H, Deng LH, Li S. 2006.

Clinical observation and study of mechanisms of needle-picking therapy for primary infertility of abnormal sperm.

Fujisawa M, Kanzaki M, Okada H, Arakawas S & Kamidono S. 1996. Metenkephalin in seminal plasma of infertile men.  International Journal of Urology 3(4): 297-300

Bensoussan A. 1990. The Vital Meridian. Churchill Livingstone: 112

Guzick DS, Overstreet JW, Factor-Litvak P. 2001. Sperm morphology, motility and concentration in fertile & infertile men. New England Journal of Medicine 345(19): 1388-1393.

Ford W, North K, Taylor H, Farrow A, Hull M, Golding J. 2000. Increasing paternal age is associated with delayed conception in large population of fertile couples: evidence for declining fecundity in older men. Human Reproduction 15(8): 1703-1708.

Acupuncture to help you quit

Acupuncture for Improving Sperm Quality

by Ashley Gordon, FGHG acupuncturist

Do you hate smoking and can’t stop? Found a reason to quit, but you just can’t find the will-power to make it happen? Keep reading and see if Acupuncture could be the helping hand you need…

Like many addictions, what can start off as innocent frolic with fun, can often end up being an extremely difficult habit to kick. Smoking, being the most common of addictions, means that if you are wanting to quit, then you are not alone. Exhausted all of the popular means of trying to end your relationship with cigarettes but to still no success? Then if you haven’t tried Acupuncture, then you are not yet out of options!

In this scenario, we will utilise specific acupuncture points, some relating to your bodily organ functions which may assist you in stopping smoking, but many linked with very important detoxification points in your ear. This is a very popular method among us acupuncturists in addressing the withdrawal/detoxification process in efforts of doing everything in our power to bring you closer to your goal of a cigarette-free life.

Note that this is not a miracle cure and no acupuncturist will claim to help you stop smoking if you don’t want to do it. A “can-do” attitude is THE most important part of this process. Getting over the everyday mental struggle is where the initial steps of this process lie. It’s a team effort, so if you aren’t willing to be a team player, then this may not be for you. Alternatively, if you are on board and want to end your toxic relationship with cigarettes, then the sky is the limit! In my time working at Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery centre, I have seen the difference it makes when you have the support to take positive action, set clear intentions and be held accountable.

This study suggests that acupuncture may help motivated smokers to reduce their smoking or even quit smoking completely.*1 While systematic reviews of data remain inconclusive, I have seen so much benefit for acupuncture to help people stay motivated, on track and supported in their attempt to quit for good. Along with reducing taste and desire, acupuncture supports the body back to good health and vitality in a myriad of other ways, helping you to feel good while your body detoxifies from each cigarette you have smoked in the past

Apart from potentially saying “adios” to these unwanted friends, here are some added benefits of the process:

#1 – Ever heard of Acupressure? Simple to do and you can do it anywhere!! A great technique to help manage cravings – just by massaging your ears… if you are massaging your ears, you can’t possibly be having a cigarette in your hand!

#2 – Acupuncture has been shown to reduce taste for tabacco and the desire to smoke *2

#3 – Not only can acupuncture support your body through the quit smoking process, it may also be helping your organs detoxify simultaneously – it is one thing to treat the symptoms, but why not call in the cavalry to increase your chance of success…

#4 – As there are no medicines, sprays, gums, patches, tablets or pills as part of this process (unless, of course, you chose natural herbal medicine as an additional support), this is an ALL NATURAL approach to ridding yourself of cigarettes.

So if this article speaks to you and you feel as if now is the time to initiate the change you have been wanting to see in your life, then you have nothing to lose by integrating Acupuncture into your quit-smoking campaign… we are waiting for you!

What can you expect?

Overcoming the obstacle of quitting smoking, not only requires determination, but also a high frequency of treatments. Once the cravings start to back off, so does the need for treatment. Of course, every scenario is different and the plan is tailored to each individual’s needs, however, the general plan will look something like this:

Stage One: 3 x treatments in the first 3 days – generally consecutive

Stage Two: 2-3 x treatments per week for 3 weeks, progress depending

Stage Three: 1-2 x treatments per week or fortnight for 3 months, progress depending

As previously mentioned, every plan is different and tailored to the progress and individual needs of the patient. The initial goal of Stage One is to decrease and manage the cravings and potentially the taste of the cigarettes. Following that, in Stage Two, we aim to address decreasing the habit of smoking in everyday-life, and maintaining a ‘no cigarette life’ is the aim of Stage Three. Ensuring that you are supported throughout every stage of your journey is our highest priority, so if you know that now is the right time to give smoking the heave-ho, don’t go it alone. Take the first step by booking in for your initial acupuncture session today.



*1. “Effects of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction for motivated smokers”, Preventitive Medicine, Vol. 26, Issue 2, March 1997, p208-214, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9085389

*2. “Effect of Acupuncture on Smoking Cessation or Reduction: An 8-Month and 5-Year Follow-up Study”, Preventative Medicine, Vol.33, Issue 5, Nov 2001, p364-372, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11676576



Ash-Gordon-colourAshley Gordon is a compassionate, caring and nurturing practitioner with an ear for listening to help people move through their healing. He has a passion for assisting others with the power of Chinese medicine and is dedicated to continued personal learning and education of others. Ashley uses acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat a wide of range of conditions, but has a special interest in treating pregnancy, fertility issues in both men and women, conditions relating to women’s health and digestive problems.


By Gina Fox (FGHG naturopath) and Joanne Sharkey (FGHG acupuncturist)

We are thrilled to announce the latest in our informative podcast series WTF is MTHFR – an interview by Joanne Sharkey with Gina Fox on the ins and outs of MTHFR.

Have you heard of MTHFR? What is it? Why is everybody talking about it? Could it be affecting your chances of conceiving a healthy baby? Implicated in miscarriage, sperm defects, neural tube defects like spinabifida, and even chromosomal issues like down syndrome, MTHFR needs attention in a practice like ours with a special focus on fertility and helping people conceive healthy babies.

What if you do have it? Can it be treated? Will treatment actually help? Is there a bigger picture than this reductionist approach?

There are so many questions when it comes to MTHFR. Get all of your answers here on this fabulous and comprehensive podcast with FGHG acupuncturist Joanne Sharkey interviewing FGHG fertility naturopath Gina Fox

Listen to the podcast now

Let’s talk about sex, baby!

By Charmaine Dennis, Naturopath and Co-director


It can be so easy to get caught up in the dos and don’ts of trying to conceive – don’t drink alcohol, go to your GP for testing, give up the cigarettes, exercise more … that we can forget to talk about the most important thing about getting pregnant – SEX!

When you first start consciously trying to conceive, sex with your partner may be the most potent love making you have experienced. To come together to make a baby is ultimately what it is all about – a culmination of your love together resulting in the formation of another human being whose every cell is made up of your union. Amazing times!

But it seems that it can quickly turn to stressful thinking, especially as we often assume that it will happen quickly and easily for us. We tried so hard for most of our reproductive lives to not get pregnant with intercourse, so it is easy to assume that it should happen on the first attempt without contraception. Right?

Continue reading Let’s talk about sex, baby!