Sperm are constantly in danger. Inside the testicle it takes a sperm about 72 days to go from a germ cell to a fully mature sperm cell capable of fertilizing an egg. During that time, it needs proper nutrition and temperature to develop normally. Once mature, sperm are stored in a long tube called the epididymis where they wait to be ejaculated. Like tiny engines, mature sperm cells produce a form of exhaust known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage the cell’s membranes. After about a week in the epididymis, sperm cells that haven’t been ejaculated begin to die.
For the lucky sperm that make it into the female’s body, it’s a whole new world of danger. Vaginal walls tend to be acidic to protect women from potential infections. During the fertile window, the female creates a sperm friendly fluid that enables sperm to swim up towards the egg. Sperm are not that smart. Many of them get lost in the cervix. Those who do make it into the uterus are greeted by white blood cells that see the sperm as invaders and attack them. These sperm swim like crazy to try to find the Fallopian tube while avoiding white cells. Finding the fallopian tube is like finding a needle in a haystack. Of the millions of sperm released upon ejaculation, only a handful make it to the fallopian tube where the egg is released. There, the sperm must survive long enough to meet and fertilize the egg.
So, for men, fertility is a numbers game. The more healthy swimmers you send in, the better your chances are that one of them will find the egg.
Several large scale studies have analyzed the relationship between semen quality and how long it took a couple to get pregnant. Here are the highlights:
More = Better: In general, men with more healthy sperm cells conceive more quickly.
You don’t need super sperm: Sperm counts have a wide range, anywhere from zero to over 300 million cells per milliliter (M/mL. While more is generally better, you don’t have to be in the top 5% to become a dad. Chances of conception level out for sperm counts 55 M/mL and above. An average guy, with an average sperm count has just as good a shot of fatherhood as a dude with king kong super sperm.
How low can you go? Many men with a low sperm count can often naturally conceive a child, however chances are higher that he could have fertility issues meaning it could be more difficult to get pregnant. Studies find that sperm counts below 15 M/mL correlate with significantly lower chances of conception.
Improving chances of conception
Many factors influence a couple’s monthly chance of conception – the woman’s age, the “friendliness” or “hostility” of her vaginal tract, the quality of the semen that transports the sperm, and the overall quantity and quality of the sperm. However, there are lots of things a couple can do to improve chances of conception. Here are some of the simplest ones:
Have sex, often. Even though a woman’s fertile period is just a few days, it is important for sperm health that the man has regular ejaculations to “flush out the system” so that he doesn’t have an abundance of dead sperm when the big day comes. Ideally, you should aim for at least once a week throughout the cycle and every 1-2 days during the “fertile window”
Make it hot! Orgasm could possibly be one of the best tools you have for improving your chances of conception. On the female side, vaginal contractions during orgasm serve several purposes. They draw more semen out of the man and they draw sperm up towards the cervix. For men, studies have shown that the more exciting the sex, the better the sperm that come out.
Boost your sperm count: Sperm count is not like your shoe size. There are a lot of things that you can do to improve your sperm production. Download the Trak App to get personalized tips on sperm-friendly habits that you can start today.
Be healthy: Diet, exercise, stress & sleep deeply impact fertility for both men and women. Starting to prepare your life, your home and your heart for a new baby begins with re-arranging your priorities to make sure that you are as healthy as you can be.