Do you find yourself marveling over how these tiny cells can make their way to an egg to create life? If you’re curious about these odd-looking, tadpole-shaped cells on which the very survival of our species rests, read on for some unusual facts about them.
1. Hundreds Of Millions
If there’s a suspension of disbelief at the number of sperm in your ejaculate, you’re not alone. Much like the incredible number of colorful little sprinkles that can fit on a slice of buttered bread, each milliliter of ejaculate packs in millions of sperm.
An estimated 280 million sperm can be found in the average ejaculate. And if that seems like a lot, you only need to think of other species like cows and pigs that have an estimated 3,000 and 8,000 million sperm per milliliter.1
2. Low Sperm Count And Fertility Problems
[pullquote]When sperm counts drop below 10 million, you may need to visit a specialist to improve the number.[/pullquote]
According to the National Infertility Association, if your sperm count is between 40 million and 300 million per milliliter, you’re in the normal range.
Are you on the borderline with a 20 million count? That’s okay too if the overall morphology or structure of the sperm, as well as its motility, is normal. 2
3. Traveling Speed Of 5 Minutes To An Hour
Nature created sperm for reproduction. So if that’s the end game, the arrival of the sperm in the woman’s fallopian tube, where it has a shot at fertilizing the woman’s egg, is the veritable checkered flag. And that takes anywhere from 5–68 minutes on an average.
4. Survival Of Less Than 1 Percent
While they start at millions, sperms are faced with an onslaught of immune responses from the female body that views them as “foreign matter” and deals with them much as it would an infection. This, coupled with the fact that sperms aren’t equipped with any repair mechanisms, means that not many survive the hostile environment.
[pullquote]Researchers estimate that just 1 percent of all sperms are likely retained, on an average, in the female reproductive tract.[/pullquote]
In addition, the seminal gel formed to hold the sperm can’t keep all of it in the cervical region. Very few cross the cervical mucus and move up higher. Due to flowback – the loss of sperm from the vagina – 35 percent of sperms are lost.3
5. A Fertile Life Of 1 To 2 Days
The window that a sperm has to fertilize an egg isn’t that much in the larger scheme of things. So once the sperm enters the female body, it has no more than 24–48 hours where it remains viable and can fertilize the egg.
While the sperm’s motility or ability to move lasts far longer (as much as 3–4 hours in some cases), it has at that point long lost it potential to fertilize.4
6. Pre-Ejaculate – The Sperm’s Wingman
[pullquote]The pre-ejaculate can’t guarantee the life of the sperm, but it can help things along![/pullquote]
Pre-ejaculation occurs before the actual ejaculate emerges from the penis. The Cowper’s gland on the topmost section of your urethra releases this fluid. Its job is essentially to neutralize the acidic environment of the vagina before the sperm enters, failing which the sperm would effectively be “neutralized” or killed right away.
It also lubricates the sperm that follows – just like a good “wingman” would make things smoother for you when you meet someone.
7. The Sperm Cares What You Eat
Eating too much junk food, processed meats, and dairy can all spell ruin for sperm. Studies have found that this combined with insufficient intake of fresh fruit and vegetables can cause the semen quality to drop.5
Get more DHA from omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and wild salmon, and it can help your body form a healthy sperm that’s got the motility and fluidity required to get the job done.6
8. Mind Your Habits
Sperm count, morphology, motility, and viability are all adversely affected by many factors ranging from laptop and Wi-Fi usage to heavy alcohol consumption and smoking.7 8 9 So try and avoid too much exposure to radiation from laptops and Wi-Fi, cut down on your drinking, and quit smoking if you can. And do it now!
|↑1||Dr. Lindemann’s Fun Sperm Facts! Oakland University.|
|↑2||The Semen Analysis, The National Infertility Association.|
|↑3||Baker, R. Robin, and Mark A. Bellis. “Human sperm competition: ejaculate manipulation by females and a function for the female orgasm (1993).” In Sperm Competition in Humans, pp. 177-210. Springer US, 2006.|
|↑4||Can Pregnancy Occur if…? Pregnancy Myths Cleared Up! The American Pregnancy Association|
|↑5||Mendiola, Jaime, Alberto M. Torres-Cantero, José M. Moreno-Grau, Jorge Ten, Manuela Roca, Stella Moreno-Grau, and Rafael Bernabeu. “Food intake and its relationship with semen quality: a case-control study.” Fertility and sterility 91, no. 3 (2009): 812-818.|
|↑6||Attaman, Jill A., Thomas L. Toth, Jeremy Furtado, Hannia Campos, Russ Hauser, and Jorge E. Chavarro. “Dietary fat and semen quality among men attending a fertility clinic.” Human Reproduction (2012): des065.|
|↑7||Avendano, Conrado, Ariela Mata, César A. Sanchez Sarmiento, and Gustavo F. Doncel. “Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation.” Fertility and sterility 97, no. 1 (2012): 39-45.|
|↑8||Sermondade, Nathalie, Hanène Elloumi, Isabelle Berthaut, Emmanuelle Mathieu, Vanina Delarouzière, Célia Ravel, and Jacqueline Mandelbaum. “Progressive alcohol-induced sperm alterations leading to spermatogenic arrest, which was reversed after alcohol withdrawal.” Reproductive biomedicine online 20, no. 3 (2010): 324-327.|
|↑9||Künzle, Robert, Michael D. Mueller, Willy Hänggi, Martin H. Birkhäuser, Heinz Drescher, and Nick A. Bersinger. “Semen quality of male smokers and nonsmokers in infertile couples.” Fertility and sterility 79, no. 2 (2003): 287-291.|