Fertility in men
Healthy sperm is a major factor in successful conception. Male infertility affects around half of all infertile couples, and is probably the most common issue, after a woman’s age. So it’s useful to understand the male reproductive system.
How men produce sperm
On average, healthy young men produce around 100 million sperm every day, by a repeated division of cells. Along with the male hormone testosterone, sperm are produced in the testicles, from where they pass slowly through a long coiled channel called the epididymis. Here they mature, gaining the ability to swim and penetrate an egg cell. They then travel via the prostate to the urethra and out the penis during ejaculation.
Each sperm includes:
- a head carrying the genetic material needed for fertilisation
- a tail for propulsion.
To fertilise an egg successfully, a sperm needs movement to swim through the cervical mucus and penetrate the outer surface of the egg. It also needs to bind to an egg, which requires a normally shaped head.
It takes about 72 days for sperm to form. If a man has any serious illness during this time, it can affect his sperm for up to three months.
What can cause male infertility?
If a couple does not conceive after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse, this is classed as infertility – and this is due to low sperm count or quality in around 40% of cases.
Fortunately, the most common causes of male infertility are easy to diagnose, and can be treated.
Learn more about abnormal sperm production.
Contact us to find out more about fertility treatments.