I will say in advance that this article is charged with some emotion and “judgment” towards our men. As most of you know I write many articles around support of our men and how the landscape of the healing arts world leaves them behind. However, in the fields of fertility they do not play fair. I write this after another interaction with one of my female clients recently that echoed the story I have heard way too often…
“I am still not pregnant, I am now on Letrozole (or insert one of many ovulation stimulating drugs), I feel awful and all of my tests say that I am hormonally healthy. My husband finally got checked out and it appears his sperm is weak. “Is he taking any action to improve his sexual health”. NO, he supports me and Maya massage and herbs and doctors but there is no way he will do any of this….”
Common Letrozole side effects may include:
- dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, tired feeling
- hot flashes, warmth in your face or chest
- bone pain, muscle or joint pain
- flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling)
- increased sweating
- swelling, weight gain
It is at this point that I have to swallow my anger. I have to allow judgment to roll off my back as my client sits in front of me feeling defeated. Feeling like she has failed- like her body has failed and that she still has to carry the entire burden of the infertility diagnosis herself. It further astonishes me how many couples in this scenario- or should I say how many women- are willing to undergo expensive and invasive IVF treatments before the male partner tries to improve his fertile health. Again, I always hear- “he is so supportive of all the things I do”. Umm- of course he is- he doesn’t have to do anything inconvenient or invasive to his body. I am fully aware that this is not all men. But I write from first hand experience and my experience is that this is the common story.
Emotions aside, I can come into a place where there is compassion for a man who receives a diagnosis of poor sperm and reproductive health. Those words pierce straight to the heart of ego. And, in a society where men already feel isolated from emotional expression it can be an uphill climb to face the reality that they are not the warrior-creator-provider that the stories of conquer and kings make us all believe they should be.
Times are different, our bodies are different and face different challenges with stress and toxicity on many levels. This is not exclusive to the sensitive female system. Stress typically effects our hormone health first as the brilliance of life will not allow creation to continue if the landscape is barren and void of nourishment. This effects men equally to women. Women just speak of it more often as we have a moon cycle that alerts us to imbalance every month.
(I do want to insert here that many of my beloved friends, clients and colleagues identify as female with male type bodies. When I speak of women and females here I speak of those with female parts regardless of gender identity- and vice versa- as stress and fertility affect us all :)… However, this issue lends itself more to the straight, heterosexual population.)
Details of the infertility epidemic and what resources can be helpful for our men….
A diagnosis of infertility comes after a couple is unable to conceive after one year of trying. According to statistics from the CDC 35-40% of issues come from female imbalance, 35-40% come from male imbalance and the rest is of equal imbalance in both partners. This information alone should hopefully spark awareness to the importance of shared responsibility in this delicate, important and miraculous process.
Common causes of infertility for both men and women are:
- Stress and trauma
- Hormone imbalance
- Poor diet and lifestyle- including being overweight
- History of chronic disease
- Medication use
- Recreational drug use including tobacco and marijuana
- Past or recent sexual infections
- Abdominal surgeries
Causes of infertility in men:
- Low sperm count and motility of sperm
- Erectile dysfunction
- Ejaculation issues and obstruction
- had one or two undescended testicles when you were a baby or child
- have a hernia in your groin- very common in men
- Hormone replacements and steroid use- testosterone.
- All of the above- stress, trauma, diet, lifestyle, smoking, drug use etc.
When my clients (mostly women) come in to see me around their reproductive health we start by looking holistically at all of the above factors. When it comes to baby making we must all remember that just because the fetus grows within the mother and is mostly nourished by her, the health of that initial beautiful organism is affected by the health of both cells from sperm and egg. What that sperm carries (stress, toxins, trauma) can greatly influence if and how that fetus develops. Both parts must be healthy and vital for life to respond optimally. When wanting to create a family- the vitality of the whole family organism should be addressed- mom, dad, baby/ mom, mom, baby/ dad, dad, baby- or whatever lovely structure your family takes.
So, how do we approach the male bodied partners out there who need some guidance around this joint effort plan in parenting? First, we acknowledge how the male dynamic is mostly NOT wired to self nurture. We meet them where they are and give them information in a way that supports and doesn’t diminish them. (And, yes, maybe a few harsh words of reality) There is NO shame in needing a little assistance in our reproductive health. MEN- of course you need assistance. Modern stressors affect us all-like I said. They affect all and affect us first in our endocrine balance which affects our sexual vitality. You are not less of a man because you battle and experience the same stress triggers as most every other man- and woman- walking. We all just need to talk about it more.
Next, we provide resources and solutions that are simple. My recent client knows that there is no way her husband will come to see me so we created a plan where she would teach him the abdominal massage for her and she would also do the massage for him. This creates intimacy that is also nourishing the tissues and organs of the reproductive systems- win win. We also talked about herbs and foods for him that he could easily incorporate.
For the man who is more willing to be an active participant- I strongly suggest that everything the woman does- the man also does. If she is going to alter her diet and lifestyle to more balance and health- so should he. If she is going to take nourishing herbs for her reproductive system- so should he. I will also insert here that regardless of fertility challenges, we want healthy babies and these steps should be taken by ALL couples looking to conceive.
Support for the male body
Herbs– when deciding to take herbs please work with someone experienced in the field of health. Also, diet and lifestyle must be addressed for any plant’s healing properties to have full positive affect on the body.
- Saw Palmetto berry ~Saw Palmetto is nourishing to the entire endocrine system, which may help improve overall reproductive function in men
- American Ginseng Rt. ~This hearty root is considered to be one of the best male sexual tonics. Clinical observation has shown American ginseng to to support healthy libido, erectile dysfunction and enhance male sexual performance.
- Maca~ In a human study of 9 men who were given gelatinized maca for 4 months at 1,500 – 3,000 mg a day experienced an increase in libido, sperm count, motility of sperm, increased DHEA levels, decreased anxiety and stress, lowered blood pressure, balanced iron levels and an increase in adrenal androgens.
- Yohimbe Bark ~Yohimbe has been found to increase circulation to the erectile tissues; aiding in physiological and psychogenic (mental) impotence. Impotence; the inability to sustain erection, is the most common sexual disorder among men.
Diet and Lifestyle- all things worth doing take time. Allow your body to be nourished before you try to conceive.
- Foods high in Zinc~ Zinc has been widely researched in relation to the reproductive health in men. You can easily supplement with zinc and I recommend zinc rich foods as the body more readily uses foods for our nourishment (as long as gut health is in check). Foods high in zinc are: Oysters, spinach and greens, organic lamb and beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews.
- Organic foods~ organic does matter when we talk fertility. Some of the most potent endocrine disruptors come on our foods in the form of pesticides and antibiotics. Fresh, clean and organic foods nourish the body and help keep digestion moving and the liver in optimal filtering health.
- Removing toxins~ Environmental toxins are harsh enough but add tobacco and other drugs to our liver, lungs and body and we have a cocktail of major hormone disruption. Habits are not easy to break and I do not take lightly the journey of quitting tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs etc. I will propose these questions however: Is the health of the fetus important? Are you willing to adjust your lifestyle to make space for a healthy new baby?- There is no judgment here at all. Just necessary questions as life is not a game to play with.
- Stress management~ Emotional and physical stressors are- in my opinion- the most damaging to our entire system and reproductive health. Find ways to balance your work and your play. Have a creative outlet. Exercise. Take up some mindfulness practices such as meditation and breath. Massage and self- care are very important. (The Maya abdominal massage is excellent for reproductive health in both women and men). Spend more time in nature- alone and with your partner. Have loving, playful and pleasurable sexual connection :).
This journey through the infertility diagnosis is emotional and taxing. Sharing equally in the responsibility can help ease the levels of stress assumed mostly by the female. Less stress on one partner= more love between both partners= better baby making.
If you are finding that there is an imbalance in the desire for shared responsibility please reach out. Men- do not feel ashamed to talk about how to nourish your sexual health. Women- do not feel alone in the journey. We can find balance and solutions for the health of our children who in turn will bring hopeful, healthful love to this Earth.
Other articles you may find helpful:
P is for Prostates..