Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Sperm

Questions and Answers

Is it true that a man can become
infertile by wearing tight trousers?

Yes, to a degree. Tight trousers and
nylon underwear may increase the
temperature inside the testicles to
a point where sperm production
simply stops, but this is only a
temporary condition.

At what age does a young man
start to produce sperm, and for
how long does this continue?

Sperm are first produced at
puberty, at about age 12, and
production continues throughout
the life of a healthy male. Even a
man of 90 is able to father a child.

If sperm are of poor quality, could
the child be unhealthy or
damaged?

About 20 percent of sperm in the
typical ejaculate are abnormal, but
such sperm are normally unable
to fertilize an egg. If fertilization
occurs, the result is often
spontaneous abortion—nature’s
way of coping. Substances such as
lead have now been found to cause
fetal abnormality where damaged
sperm were previously suspected.

A test showed that I have a low
sperm count. What does this
mean and will it improve?

The sperm count is the number of
sperm in each milliliter of seminal
fluid. Between 2 and 5 milliliters
are normally ejaculated at each
orgasm. Sperm counts may vary
according to the body temperature
when the sperm is formed or the
frequency of intercourse, but if
your sperm count is consistently
below 20 million per milliliter and
there is no treatable cause, it is
unlikely to improve. However, you
may still be able to father a child;
it may be possible to artificially
inseminate using your sperm. A
subfertility clinic can advise on this.

The human male is an amazingly prolific producer of sperm: up to 350 million are released in one ejaculation. However, only one sperm may complete the journey to the female’s egg and achieve fertilization.

“Sperm” is the name given to the male reproductive cells—the spermatozoa. It is also commonly used as another word for seminal fluid, but in this article it is used only to refer to both the single spermatozoon and the plural spermatozoa.

The sperm’s only purpose is to achieve fertilization by union with the female cell, the ovum. Each sperm is about 0.002 inch (0.05 mm) in length and shaped like a tadpole. It has three main sections: a head, a midsection, and a tail. The front of the head—the acrosome—contains special enzymes

HOW SPERM MATURE

From puberty, sperm are constantly produced in the seminiferous tubules. To become sperm, the basic sperm cells go through three stages of cell division (bottom) before passing through the tubules and into the epididymis, where they are stored (below left). A mature normal sperm has a head, midsection, and tail (below right).

-2034-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Spastic Colon 2022
  • Specimens 2024
  • Speculum 2027
  • Speech 2028
  • Speech Therapy 2032
  • Sperm 2034
  • Sphygmomanometer 2036
  • Spina Bifida 2037
  • Spinal Cord 2040
  • Spleen 2044
  • Splinters 2047
  • Splints 2048
  • Sports Injury 2050
  • Sports Medicine 2052
  • Sprains 2056
  • Stammering and Stuttering 2058
  • Staphylococcus 2062
  • Starch 2063
  • Stem Cell 2065
  • Stenosis 2067
  • Sterilization 2068
  • Steroids 2072
  • Stethoscope 2074
  • Stiffness 2076
  • Stillbirth 2080
  • Stimultants 2083
  • Stitch 2086
  • Stomach 2088
  • Stomach Pump 2091
  • Strangulation 2094
  • Streptococcus 2097
  • Stress 2098
  • Stress Management 2103
  • Stretch Marks 2105
  • Sty 2112
  • Subconscious 2114
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome 2116
  • Suffocation 2118
  • Sugars 2120
  • Suicide 2122
  • Sunburn 2126
  • Sunstroke 2130
  • Suppositories 2132
  • Surgery 2134
  • Surrogacy 2141
  • Sutures 2144
  • Swellings 2145
  • Symptoms 2149
  • Syphilis 2153
  • Syringing 2156
  • Index 2158
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