By Jill Glover, Acupuncturist & Chinese HerbalistFather and Child

Since the start of my practice, I have been passionate about using acupuncture to help couples have the child they long for. Seeing a couple achieve a healthy pregnancy after months of despair and hopelessness is always tremendously rewarding.

More and more women are seeking acupuncture to assist them with their fertility; however in my experience, it’s a constant challenge to get their partners into the treatment room to improve their sperm quality. We all know it takes two to make a baby, so why are men so reluctant to step forward?

Male infertility now accounts for almost half of couple’s difficulty conceiving. It affects 1 in 20 men. Typically, men may have normal sexual function and be unaware that they have impaired sperm quality, although of course abnormal sexual function can contribute to male subfertility.

It’s a lesson I learnt very early in my practice. I had treated a woman for many months and her cycle had transformed from very painful and irregular to good fertile cycles. She was devastated when her period arrived each month, while I was frustrated at only having half the story. Her husband eventually had a semen test and discovered he had azoospermia (no sperm), his turn to be devastated. Their only option was donor sperm, and they happily went on to have two lovely children.

Men often resist or defer semen testing or consultations; perhaps concerned it may be a threat to their masculinity or highlight a sexual problem. There is also confusion between sexual function and semen quality – if intercourse and ejaculation is successfully achieved then what’s the problem?

Getting an initial sperm test done is often delayed, while women go through both testing and treatment. This may be linked to the fact that there are few treatments available for male infertility from the medical profession; antibiotics can be given for lingering infections, and Chlomiphene citrate may increase sperm count and motility but rarely morphology. If sperm quality is really poor, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) remains an option. Medical advice is generally limited to wearing loose underwear and stopping smoking.

Frequently men are reassured to be told that their semen sample is normal, without comprehending what ‘normal’ signifies in this context.  There seems to be little understanding amongst the general population; the benchmark for what is considered ‘normal’ has declined significantly over the past 50 years.

The WHO shows semen has declined from approximately 65% normal morphology in the mid 70’s to less than 10% in 2010. We can allow for technology improving testing, but it remains a huge decline.  The simple fact for any man is that and their father’s and grandfather’s ‘normal’ were likely to be significantly higher than theirs.

CoupleAs women become clearer about their menstrual cycle and when they are ovulating, demands on their partner may significantly increase. Passion can go out of the window with pressure to perform at a particular time. This can cause many relationship problems, and couples can go from having a fulfilling sexual relationship to one beset by stress. The Liver channel circulates through the genitals, so any degree of Liver Qi Stagnation may create sexual difficulties.

Exhaustion from working long hours depletes Kidney Qi, thereby decreasing sexual potency, sperm count and motility.  Again, this will be exacerbated by increased pressure for sex at specific times of the month. The idea of taking time to rest and nourish the body to improve fertility is quite alien in our instant fix IVF society.

The woman’s desire for a baby may far outweigh the mans, and it can be tremendously difficult if their heart isn’t really in it, or they would prefer to wait a while.  Sexual desire needs the Heart involvement as well as the Kidney Qi, and the many dietary and lifestyle changes required can create numerous tensions in the best of relationships.

There is the myth that age doesn’t matter for men, a myth perpetuated by Charlie Chaplin who fathered a child at 73. The mother was just 18. We now know that increased male age causes an increase in chromosomal and semen abnormalities, and the biological clock ticks for both men and women.

Being told one’s semen sample is normal can reduce motivation to make creative changes to a healthy lifestyle and increased fertility. However, by explaining the results of a semen test and linking it with current lifestyle choices, men are both informed and empowered to make positive changes. I find it useful to have a couple’s appointment in which you can discuss lifestyle changes for both partners, with information to hand for them to take away.

10 simple strategies to significantly improve sperm quality

  1. Regular acupuncture treatment improves sperm count, morphology and motility.
  2. Improved nutrition, including a high intake of preferably organic chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables improves sperm morphology. Conversely, high fat & salt ready meals will deplete sperm count and concentration.
  3. Optimise weight to a BMI of between 20 and 25. Both high and low BMI may cause poor sperm quality.
  4. Keeping the testicles cool improves sperm morphology. This means no phones in pockets, no laptops on laps, steer clear of saunas and hot tubs.
  5. Take a good quality preconception supplement for at least 3 months, this improves both semen quality and general health.
  6. Cordyceps mushrooms not only improve sperm quality, but also help physical endurance.
  7. Stop smoking and all recreational drugs.
  8. Stop or reduce alcohol, especially before IVF as it can reduce success markedly.
  9. Get checked for Chlamydia and any other low level infections.
  10. Check medicinal drugs are not contra indicated, as some cause sperm abnormalities or reduce sexual function.

Do you need fertility support? Contact us on 0117 377 1186 to book your initial consultation with one of our highly experience acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists.

Man and Baby

Jill has been absolutely wonderful, I cannot recommend her highly enough. She has been both professional and supportive throughout my treatment. I truly believe Jill’s assistance has enabled us to be in a position where we are expecting our first baby. We will be eternally grateful.
– J.H., Solicitor


I really cannot thank Julie enough for all her support, advice and caring since I first started my treatments. She has listened so well and supported me on my ‘bad’ weeks as well as my better ones. Julie handled my case so sensitively and I have appreciated her help so much.
– H.W.


Helen Fielding has helped me enormously through the years. She treated me with both acupuncture and herbs through my infertility problems and during IVF, which resulted in the birth of my son. Not only is she a great acupuncturist, but her warmth and compassion made such a difficult time much easier to deal with.
– S.C. (South Wales)