Introduction to Male Fertility
Although their involvement in the baby-making process isn’t as long as women’s, men still play an essential role in natural pregnancies, and the man’s health has long-lasting consequences for his offspring. Most discussions about fertility tend to focus on women, yet recent research indicates the reasons for infertility are fairly evenly spread between the sexes, with about a third each for men, women and then a combination of causes between them. An estimate of male infertility in the USA is that around 6% of 15 to 50 year-old men are infertile.(i)
It takes just one sperm to fertilise an egg, but it takes many events for that to happen. Once a boy reaches puberty he’ll start to produce sperm from specialised cells in his testes and the tubes around them. The whole process takes 80 to 90 days to produce mature sperm, and these can then be ejaculated in semen, most of which (90%) is a specially designed solution that protects, preserves and promotes sperm function. It takes at least 40 sperm to physically work together to break down the ‘shell’ barrier that surrounds an egg, at which point a single successful sperm breaks through the egg’s cell membrane to fertilize it.
The average man’s ejaculate will hopefully contain around 200 million sperm, but most of them will be physically unable to make the journey to the ovaries (semen samples are considered ‘normal’ when just 5% of the sperm are a normal shape, and when 60% are alive), or they’ll fail to get there for other reasons. This makes a man’s total number of healthy sperm a good indicator of his fertility because of the ‘team effort’ needed to fertilize an egg.
However the number of healthy sperm isn’t the whole story:
- Once the outer shell of an egg has been negotiated the successful sperm needs to fuse with the inner membrane and deposit the DNA it carries into the egg
- This then needs to successfully fuse with the egg’s DNA on the chromosomes
- The resulting cell (that now carries the normal amount of human DNA) needs to be able to grow and replicate exactly in a healthy pregnancy
Male reproductive organs and sperm explain how sperm are made and how the different parts of the male reproductive organs create semen, which can be useful knowledge for fertility-related discussions with healthcare professionals, while male fertility in time explores the changes in male fertility over the last century.
Semen sampling is the standard way to check male fertility, where a man’s semen sample is checked against the current World Health Organisation (WHO) references levels. There’s a full explanation of how semen samples are assessed in examples of semen samples, plus how certain results can indicate specific issues for the man.
Additional semen tests explains the tests that go beyond the standard semen analysis test and assess the ability of sperm to perform the functions that actually fertilise an egg and create a healthy pregnancy. They’re typically recommended when a number of IVF cycles have been unsuccessful for no apparent reason, or when characteristic traits are seen in semen samples.
Causes of male infertility covers the all the factors currently known to reduce male fertility, which includes age and male fertility. There are a wide range of reasons for a decline in male fertility and drugs and male fertility is part of this picture.
Treating male fertility and boosting male fertility have the latest information and research on how to raise male fertility with Western medicine, complementary medicine and nutritional approaches, plus oxidative stress and fertility (something that affects both sexes) is another important consideration for many couples.
For specific advice on raising a man’s fertility please complete the morefertile® male fertility analysis form.