The In’s and Out’s about Sperm

 

Spermatogenesis or the production of sperm takes approximately 74 days or 10 weeks. Each sperm consists of a head, mid piece and tail. The head contains the genetic material, the mid piece produces the energy required for all the swimming and the tail to propel the sperm towards the egg. The sperm is produced in the testis and then the sperm is moved into the epididymis where it matures. The sperm remain in the epididymis between 2 and 10 days. If the sperm is not ejaculated it dies and is reabsorbed by the body. 

During ejaculation, the sperm is mixed with semen (from the prostate and seminal vesicles) and is released from the female’s body. Sperms have the ability to “smell” the egg and to reach the egg, the sperm must first survive the acidic environment of the vagina, swim though the cervix into the uterus, into the correct fallopian tube to find the egg. When the sperms reach the egg, they require enzymes and a lot of energy to penetrate the egg. Only one sperm will be allowed to penetrate the egg and to release its genetic material to fertilise the egg.

If not enough normal sperm is produced, the male will not be able to fertilise a woman. 

Because it takes a long time for sperm to be produced, the probability is good that sperm will be damaged during the production period.

The following factors may also influence sperm production and quality

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Substance abuse
  • Environmental exposure to chemicals and metals
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Testicular overheating (for example wearing tight underpants and taking hot baths)
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Vigorous exercise and malnutrition
  • Physiological deficiencies and some diseases

That is why your doctor will recommend a semen analysis if you your partner struggles to conceive. The embryologist/andrologist will inform you to abstain for at least three days before delivering a sample for analysis. They will analyse your semen/sperm against known parameters (See table)

 

TEST

Normal parameter

Sperm volume

> 1.5 milliliter (ml)

pH

7.2 -7.8

Concentration or sperm count (How many sperms)

Minimum of 20 million sperm per ml

Motility (How many swim)

> 50% 

Morphology  (s