Male infertility affects 10 to 15 per cent of couples worldwide, and is often accompanied by intense negative sexual, personal and social strains.
Sperm, as biomarkers for health and potential health risks, should be nurtured and treated with as much respect as the ova. Semen collection and analysis is a good place to start, along with proper diet and nutrition.
Stress can have just as strong an impact on male fertility as female, and can be treated with equal efficacy through acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and other TCM techniques.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), is becoming increasingly common as both the associated technology and cultural perceptions improve.
Dr. Pentland supports ART and believes it can be integrated with traditional Chinese medicine to great effect. For instance, acupuncture has proven to be a viable adjunct therapy for IVF, as it can positively alter the menstrual cycle, regulate the immune system and relieve stress.
Step 8: Using Additional Treatments to Enhance Traditional Chinese Medicine
Dr. Pentland recommends a number of treatments that complement traditional Chinese medicine and improve overall health. Reproductive clinical counselling is the first of these, as having an experienced and compassionate support system can help address the emotional stress that often accompanies the challenges of conceiving.
Acupressure, chiropractic and massage treatments are also effective in relieving both emotional and physical stress. Emotional well-being can have profound impacts on fertility, and should be treated alongside physical health with equal importance.
Step 7: Toxin Awareness
Step 7 is all about what sorts of environmental toxins and synthetic chemicals to avoid when you're trying to conceive. Approximately 200 such chemicals are estimated to be present in the body at any given time, and the period of greatest risk of ill effects from these toxins is during fetal development. Reversing any damage that may have already been caused by these substances is simply a matter of avoiding them as much as possible and choosing cleaner alternatives.
Step 6: Get Moving
Just like diet, the right exercise regimen for an individual is the one that works best for them – and what works best is a regimen that is both enjoyable and beneficial to overall fitness and well-being.
Luckily, there is a vast range of ways to get moving, from Zumba to Pilates, kickboxing to rock climbing, team sports to yoga. No matter the activity, the key is to increase fertility by engaging in movement that improves circulation, increases energy and muscle mass, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and builds self-confidence – without overtaxing the body and diverting energy away from reproductive health.
Step 5: Curing Yourself with Diet and Supplements
No matter what the health trend du jour is, the fact is that the ideal supplement regimen might look different from person to person. In accordance with traditional Chinese medicine principles, Dr. Pentland advises that his patients find what works best for them when it comes to diet, but says there are a few fundamentals that should apply almost universally.
These include the mindful practice of relaxing quietly over meal times, consuming a "rainbow diet" of fruits and vegetables of every colour, weight management, healthy eating on the part of both the prospective mother and the father, and the use of supplements when adequate nutrients cannot be sufficiently consumed or absorbed through food.
Step 4: Nurturing Your Spirit
While spirit is often the last thing addressed when confronted with reproductive challenges, Dr. Pentland stresses the vital link that exists between physical health and spirituality.
One of the greatest factors, according to Dr. Pentland, is stress – something that naturally accompanies the process of getting pregnant, but can be compounded by reproductive challenges. And when the body is under stress, reproduction is the last priority and therefore the first to be eliminated from the tasks at hand. Stress can be managed – and spirit revived – through meditation, quiet time, self-care and giving back.
Step 3: Self-Monitoring
In Step 3, Dr. Pentland stresses the importance of listening to your body and responding appropriately. No one – not even experienced medical practitioners – knows your body or can interpret its signals better than you can, as long as you're willing to pay attention.
Of course, it is important to know when it's time to consult a doctor, but the ultimate goal is to be able to trust your body and allow the physical symptoms expressed in these areas guide you.
Step 2: Goal Setting
The second step is all about breaking down the goal of conceiving a child – an objective that can seem insurmountable for anyone experiencing fertility challenges – into smaller, more manageable steps. For instance, a woman dealing with advanced maternal age might focus on boosting her exercise regimen, improving and lengthening sleep cycles, reducing workload and eating a more nutritionally dense diet in order to improve fertility.
A new book by fertility expert Dr. Spence Pentland outlines various methods to help you conceive
For those with fertility issues, the book is a resourceful must-read, but here's a brief summary of Dr. Pentland's 10 steps.
Step 1: using Ancient Healing techniques
Studies have shown that many reproductive health issues, including infertility, can be treated effectively with traditional Chinese medicine, which aids in reducing stress and anxiety, regulating menstrual cycles and ovulation, balancing hormones and increasing sexual function.
Alison is a freelance writer and lifelong Vancouverite with a degree in Communications from Capilano University. She can most often be spotted walking the Seawall and the city's many forest trails, rain or shine. Otherwise, she can be found dabbling in her favourite pastimes: cooking, concerts and crafting.