How is sperm made?
Sperm are made in the male gonads (testes). These organs hang outside the scrotum as sperm like to be kept a few degrees cooler than the average body temperature of 37C. Because of this, things like saunas, working in hot environments and sitting cramped at your desk or car or bike for hours may affect the sperm count. From a Chinese medicine perspective, events such as high fever can influence the quality of the sperm being ejaculated 9 or more weeks later. Your qualified health practitioner will be able to give you other some simple diet and lifestyle advice that may assist with boosting your sperm quantity and quality.
Sperm is made from precursor cells called germ cells. These cells give rise to approximately 120 million sperm daily in a process termed spermatogenesis. This takes approximately 64 days.
The spermatozoa then spend 2 or more weeks in the epididymis (it over 6m long, it’s like a fallopian tube for sperm, but a really, really long one) to mature, they still have to develop the tails that give them their motility. This is almost 3 months long for sperm cells to fully develop and mature.
Sperm are flushed down the epididymis by microvilli as they continue to mature. During ejaculation, they are forced through the vas deferens and come into contact with seminal fluid.
Once the sperm enters the vagina, few sperm can survive the acidic environment and within just a few minutes after being deposited, the vagina walls are covered with the millions of dead sperm. Over the next few hours, all but a few are dead. The surviving sperm must be able to get past the cervix. With the help of the cervical mucus, they swim into the fallopian tube to meet the egg. There they have to be able to penetrate the thick shell of the egg. Only then can fertilisation take place. What an effort!
Are you trying to conceive?
Causes of male infertility include:
• Deficiency in sperm production (this is the cause is over 60%)
• Injury to the testes due to trauma or surgery
• Sperm antibodies
• Hormone problems and improperly descended testes.
Today, multiple studies show that sperm quality and quantity are on the decline. Over forty years of research has revealed sperm rates have dropped by 60%. This is a clear indication that infertility problems experienced by couples are often as much to do the man as the women, if not more.
Please get your sperm analysis done, and better yet, bring it in so that your health practitioner can sight it to ensure that they can help boost your numbers. Remember that it takes almost 3 months for a new batch of sperm, so allow minimum 3 months for treatment and enjoy getting your sperm retested to see the change.
And remember, age does affect a man’s fertility (Mike Jagger is an exception, not the rule). After 40, a greater number of DNA abnormalities occur in sperm. Men’s reproductive health is also affected by age.
What can you do to boost your sperm quantity and quality?
Here are some simple things that can be done:
• Ensure adequate sleep
• Address stress
• Stop smoking
• Reduce/remove alcohol
• Try and be within a healthy weight range
• Exercise regularly
• Stop recreational drugs and steroids
• Take correct supplementation (check bodybuilding supplements)
• Hydrate well
• Have frequent sex (or at lease frequent ejaculation)
• Eat a healthy diet (including the following smoothie)
Super Sperm Smoothie
- 2 tablespoons of cacao (high in Largine)
- 75g walnuts (high in omega 3)
- 30g goji berries (high in antioxidants)
- 3g maca root (enhances and regulates hormones)
- 1 medium banana (Vit B and magnesium)
- Almond milk or coconut water.
Blend all ingredients together.
But what if we’re not trying to conceive, we are happy with our family size or we don’t want a family?
A lot of couples feel the only option is for the women to go onto some form of contraception. I want to gently remind couples there are other options. Condoms are great.
If you think you are happy with your family size, a vasectomy is a permanent contraception option that can be reversed. The vas deferens tubes that carry the sperm from the testicles are blocked or cut. The procedure is done with a local anaesthetic (whereas if women have a tubal ligation (tubes tied), they need a general anaesthetic). Men can even drive home after the procedure! Cheaper, less invasive and relatively pain free. Go men! Good for you guys to take one for the team.
Please keep in mind that 3 month rule of making new sperm we talked about at the top of this. Allow 3 months for all the stored sperm to exit. Wear condoms over this 3 month period, ever time. I’ve seen it happen too many times.
And to finish with a joke…
Q: What do you call a couple who uses the rhythm method?
Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysisH Levine, N Jørgensen… – Human reproduction, 2017 -academic.oup.com
Eleven year longitudinal study of U.S. sperm donors demonstrates declining sperm count and motility Chang, S. et al.Fertility and Sterility, Volume 110, Issue 4, e54 – e55