Male Fertility: Part 1 (of 3!)
A Lot of emphasis is placed on female fertility, but what about the guys? Did you know that in the last 50 years male sperm count has dropped by about 50%? This is a really frightening report if these trends continue! For couples struggling with infertility, up to 50% of the time the cause for infertility is fully or partially related to an issue with the man. While there are many different health factors that can contribute to male infertility, in this series, we will focus on the issue of sperm count, as well as sperm motility and viability. Many studies have been done to identify possible causes relating to the decrease in sperm count over the years. There is much debate in the scientific community on this topic. However, some suspected causes that have been studied include; unhealthy lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Why Does Sperm Count Matter?
Before talking about the causes of low sperm count, I want to first address why sperm count matters. A man with a healthy sperm count will have 15 million to 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A healthy ejaculation usually contains about 2-5ml of semen. That's a lot of sperm! You would think that would be more than enough to achieve fertilization, however, of those tens to hundreds of millions, 90% wont even make it past the vagina.
For fertilization to occur, sperm need to travel from the vagina, through the cervix, to the uterus, then to the Fallopian tubes where the sperm will reach an egg if the woman is ovulating. Since women only ovulate from one ovary at a time, the sperm also have to make it to the correct Fallopian tube.
Out of the original millions, only a few thousand sperm will enter the correct Fallopian tube. In other words, men need all the sperm they can get to increase the chances of the sperm reaching an egg.
Not only is sperm count important, but sperm motility and morphology are also key factors in achieving fertilization. Sperm need to be good swimmers, and if their structure is altered, they can't get where they need to go (the egg). Many of the health and environmental factors that affect sperm count have also shown to affect the motility and morphology of sperm.
(Image from: https://www.healthymale.org.au/mens-health/sperm-health)
So now that we've talked about “why” sperm quality and quantity matter, we'll need to get into the “what”; what things affect sperm? We'll address this in Part 2: Health/ Lifestyle factors!
(2016, April 19). The Disappearing Sperms: Analysis of Reports ... - NCBI. Retrieved June 23, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5675356/
(n.d.). Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years.. Retrieved June 23, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1883354/
"Low sperm count - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic." https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sperm-count/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374591. Accessed 5 Aug. 2020.
Author: Kaitlyn Rohan RN, BSN