It Takes Two To Tango: Male Fertility 101
Hop off the self-blame train and realize that conquering fertility is a group effort. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third is attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or is unexplained.
So get to know your partner's repo-d system! And be sure to have his sperm tested as part of the to-do list when planing your fertility journey going forward.
Here are some basic facts you need to know about male fertility if you're going to become an informed Guru.
Sperm Physiology and Anatomy:
- It takes a period of about 48 days for sperm to form. During this time, events in a man's life (aka fever, stress) can effect the quality of the sperm that are then ejaculated 9 weeks later.
-Sperm are made in the testes which hang outside of the body in the scrotum. Why is it that the testicles are the only organs that needs fresh air? Because lower temperatures seem to be important for a functioning sperm-factory. Lab experiments on rats have shown increased malfunction of sperm production within just 24 hours of raised scrotal temperatures.
-The average male will produce roughly 525 billion (with a B!) sperm over a lifetime. In order to have the best chance of just one of those guys making it successfully to an egg, each ejaculation needs to deposit at least 39 million sperm into the vagina.
The Sperm's Journey:
Once ejaculated into the vagina only a few can survive the acidic environment, and within minutes all but a few are dead. The survivors make their way to the cervix where it is essential that there be plentiful cervical mucus to negotiate a safe passage into the uterus. Contractions by the uterus propel the sperm up to the fallopian tubes where a recently ovulated egg is already making its journey downtown.
World Health Organization Minimum Standards for Male Fertility:
The Word Health Organization (WHO) puts out standards for assessing male fertility. They found that there are certain thresholds above which, all else being normal, men and their partners were able to conceive within 12 months of trying. Sperm evaluations below these numbers are considered "subnormal" and may lower a man's prospects for fertility. However, the results have been disputed by several studies and individual analysis should always be discussed with a Medical Doctor. Evaluations are made based off of sperm samples taken at a pathology laboratory.
WHO Lower Reference Limits for Male Fertility, 2010:
Semen volume: 1.5 ml
Total sperm number: 39 million per ejaculate
Sperm concentration: 15 million per ml
Vitality: 58% live
Progressive motility: 32%
Total motility: 40%
Morphologically normal forms: 4.0%
If you and your guy have had unprotected sex for more than a year without a resulting pregnancy, be sure you BOTH make it to your doctor's office for evaluation. That way you have all of the pieces of the puzzle laid out to collectively form a game plan directed at achieving successful fertility.
Lyttleton, Jane. Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, 2013. Print.