Sperm and semen are not the same
Sperm are too tiny to see with the naked eye, while semen is the white fluid that is ejaculated after a man achieves orgasm. Even though sperm are microscopically small, they show up in abundant numbers. The 10 to 500 million sperm found in a single semen contribution would stretch for six miles if they were lined up end to end.
Each ejaculate of semen is about a half-teaspoon of fluid. In addition to sperm, semen contains proteins, fructose and other organic fluids that allow sperm to survive and fertilize the egg. With the help of clear secretions produced by the bulbourethral glands, sperm move into the vagina and cervix with the goal of meeting and penetrating an egg.
Men are sperm-production machines
In contrast to women and their eggs, men are constantly producing sperm. In fact, in less than the time it takes to read this sentence, a man will produce more than 1500 sperm in a second. Because the sperm live fast but die young, they must be constantly replenished.
It takes approximately two to three months for sperm germ cells to fully mature into healthy sperm ready to fertilize an egg. This regeneration process is good news for men trying to give up bad lifestyle habits that are affecting their sperm count and quality.
There are male and female sperm
The father is responsible for determining the gender of his child. Sperm that carry the X chromosome typically live longer than sperm with a Y chromosome. Sperm with an X chromosome give rise to a female and Y-bearing sperm will result in a male, which may account for the slightly higher percentage of females in the population.
Lots of sperm are abnormally shaped
A significant percentage -- 50 percent or more -- of sperm have really strange shapes, such as two heads, two tails, deformed tails or other oddities. These deformities may have an impact on the ability of the sperm to penetrate an egg.
A man only needs one testicle to become a parent
If a man loses one testical to cancer, for example, his other testicle will make up for this loss by producing additional sperm. This is a handy way for nature to adapt to challenging circumstances.
Male infertility has been shown, by well-controlled scientific studies, to be present in up to 47 percent of infertile couples. Sperm abnormalities are one of the major causes of this problem.
At HRC Fertility, we consider the semen analysis as the first step in evaluating the male factor for couples undergoing an infertility evaluation. Most men with an abnormal semen analysis can father children with appropriate treatment. This can include intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In addition, we might refer a man to a urologist to further specialized evaluation and treatment.
Though only one sperm is needed to make a baby, Mother Nature has created a fascinating production and transport process for male genetic material. Scientists are always learning new facts about sperm that hopefully will contribute to the resolution of many forms of infertility.