Sperm is as equally essential as the female egg when it comes to reproduction, but low sperm quality and quantity can result in infertility. Understanding the facts and contributing factors is important and can help improve your chances of parenthood.
Did you know?
Semen contains a small 5-10% of sperm, with the remaining fluid being packed full of nutrients including protein, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and calcium.
Each time you ejaculate an average of 200 million sperm are released.
Once inside the vagina, sperm can survive for as many as five days, although the average lifespan is one or two days.
Most men produce approximately 3.7 millilitres of semen per ejaculation. If you have a volume of below 1.5 millilitres then this could signal an issue with the prostate gland, seminal vesicles or ducts.
Sperm is ultimately responsible for the sex of your baby. Some sperm will contain the female chromosome, while others will have a male chromosome and whichever fertilises the egg will determine if your child will be a boy or a girl.
You will never stop producing sperm and any that is not ejaculated will be absorbed back into your body.
The more often you ejaculate, the higher the quality of your sperm.
In a lifetime the average male will ejaculate approximately 7.5 litres of sperm.
Of the 2 trillion sperm produced during the life of a man, only the minority will be considered ‘normal’ and as few as 1 in 5 will be able to swim towards the female egg.
When it comes to analysing male fertility levels, semen is the most important factor
The clinic will require you to provide a sperm sample for testing. The sample will be produced in a private area of the clinic and will be assessed within a matter of hours. The doctor will measure your fertility based on a variety of readings such as the volume of semen produced, the consistency, the sperm count and velocity. Testing the motility (ability to swim) and morphology (size and shape) of the sperm is also important when determining fertility levels.
A 2.5ml volume of semen that can successfully change consistency to become liquid-like within 20 minutes is considered normal
Each millilitre of semen is expected to include between 40 million and 300 million sperm. A minimum of 50% of cells should be active and the sperm movement should achieve a grade 2 or above when tested. At least 30% of the active cells should be of regular shape, with no less than 14% of sperm having a normal head shape and size.
The semen sample can detect abnormalities and may also be used to test for sexually transmitted infections. Once identified, poor sperm quality can identify the existence of a medical condition which may require treatment, or perhaps can be improved with positive lifestyle changes.
Within the past few decades there have been reports from many countries indicating reduced sperm quality. Poor sperm quality is to blame for 20% of UK couple infertility issues, with it also being a contributing factor in a further 25% of cases. Denmark report as much as a 50% reduction in sperm quality since the 1940’s and to further emphasise, France have recently seen a significant decline in the average healthy male sperm count.
Almost 3 million UK men are estimated to have issues with their fertility
In most cases, smoking, drinking alcohol, poor diet and high levels of stress are considered as contributing factors. The good news is, positive lifestyle changes can result in improved sperm quality.
Understanding the quality of sperm that you produce is important, especially when trying for a baby. Semen can reveal valuable fertility information and the test is quick and painless. The majority of male fertility issues can be successfully resolved, so discover for yourself – does your sperm need an MOT?
Changes you make to improve sperm quality won’t happen overnight
Although produced daily, your sperm will take as long as three months to reach full maturity, which is why you should get tested as soon as possible. Once you become aware of any issues, you can begin to make the necessary changes.