What Does Sperm Do?
Sperm’s job is to fertilize eggs. It’s carried from the male body to the female body in semen. However, semen isn’t just made up of sperm and fluid. It also carries important nutrients so that sperm can stay alive and swim while they are fertilizing.
In an average semen release (which is about 2 to 5 ml), there are between 15 and 200 million sperm. Pre-ejaculate, or precum, doesn’t usually contain sperm unless it was leaked into it. Pre-ejaculate’s job is to create a more welcoming environment for the sperm to travel past the acid that the female urethra and vagina tend to produce.
The life of sperm depends on the environment after ejaculation. In a hot tub, sperm only live for a few seconds. A hot bath is slightly better, as sperm live for a few minutes. In the air, sperm live until semen dries out. In a woman’s body, sperm can live for up to five days, all in search of an egg to fertilize.
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How to Identify Healthy Sperm
Sperm health is directly related to male fertility, but the only way to really spot healthy sperm is through a microscope since each sperm is about 0.002 inches long in total.
Quantity is super important when it comes to sperm. As a benchmark, doctors look for at least 15 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate. Another important quality of sperm is how much movement it has. Since sperm has to be able to travel through the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes, it has to be able to move.
The final quality of healthy sperm that is looked at is its structure. A healthy sperm has an oval head and a long tail. This, combined with high quantity and lots of movement, gives the best chance for an egg to be fertilized and pregnancy to occur.
How to Improve Sperm Health
Here’s the part where men can do something to improve sperm health! Some causes of male infertility are outside our control including issues within the brain that impacts the production of testosterone and sperm, and disease. However, there are ways to improve sperm health and male fertility.
Healthy lifestyle choices can lead to healthier sperm. Maintaining a healthy BMI (body mass index) is likely one of these factors, as is eating good foods that are high in antioxidants. Stock up on those fruits and veggies!
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause male infertility, so it’s always important to practice safe sex by using a condom when your partner’s sexual health status is unknown.
Other things that help with healthy sperm include decreasing stress and increasing activity. Stress can impact the hormones a male body needs to make sperm, so the less stress the better. Exercise increases antioxidant enzymes which may help with protecting sperm.
What to Avoid For Sperm Health
There are also some things to avoid in order to protect sperm health. Cigarette smoking has been linked to low sperm count. Heavy alcohol consumption is also related to lowered testosterone, decreased sperm, and impotence, so drinking should be moderated.
Another thing to avoid may be lubricants during sex. While research is inconclusive, some lubricants may reduce fertility. There are some fertility-friendly lubricants to use that won’t impact sperm health, or you can avoid lubricants altogether.
Most of us can remember learning in health class that anabolic steroids could cause male infertility, as well as tight clothes that increase scrotal temperature. Besides steroids, certain medications can impact male fertility. It’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking medications.
The good news is that the damaging effects of prolonged heat are generally temporary and sperm health improves after a few months of changing habits/activities. A final area of concern is exposure to toxins. If this is a risk, always wear protective clothing and don’t touch chemicals with bare skin. It takes the male body three months to make new sperm, so every action taken now to improve sperm health can pay off in the near future.