Sperm are the male germ cells. Colloquially they are also called sperm cells. In medicine, the term is also often used Spermatozoa. They contain the male genetic makeup for reproduction. This is the single set of chromosomes which, together with the single female set of chromosomes from the egg cell, results in double the set of chromosomes during fertilization.

Read more about this at: Fertilization of the egg

Sperm are very small and consist of different parts. In the head part they contain the chromosome set and the tail is used for locomotion in the uterus.

Can you freeze sperm?

A common question from couples in the context of family planning is whether sperm can be frozen. The answer to that is yes. You can freeze sperm and do your family planning at a later date. Freezing the sperm preserves them for possible later use.

Read more on the subject at: Artificial fertilization

This procedure is particularly important for patients who, for example, suffer from a tumor disease and need treatment.
If family planning for these patients has not yet been completed at the time of starting therapy for a tumor, then freezing sperm is a good solution for later family planning. Radiation or chemotherapy often damage the germ cells, which can then lead to sterility. This can happen to both men and women. The freezing of the sperm serves the purpose of being able to father children even after the therapy.

The process by which one can freeze sperm and store it for a few years is also called Cryopreservation designated. From the name it can already be deduced that the sperm are preserved by cold. Here, liquid nitrogen is used, which cools the sperm to around minus 190 degrees. At the beginning of the freezing of the sperm, a conversation takes place in an appropriate facility. The process and basic questions are explained. The sperm are only frozen for a limited period of time, depending on the contract. They can then be thawed and used again for artificial insemination at any time.

The actual process of a Cryopreservation begins with the delivery of the man's ejaculate at time x from. This ejaculate is then processed and a check is made to see whether it contains sperm that are suitable for artificial insemination. These are then frozen and preserved in several samples. Liquid nitrogen quickly cools the sperm to minus degrees. In some cases, a second ejaculate delivery is necessary or better. There is also a Hepatitis C and HIV test for a possible infection with one of the two pathogens. If these tests are negative, the sperm can be stored in larger tanks until it is needed again for artificial insemination.

Size of the sperm

The human sperm cell is basically very small. In its entirety, it only measures around 60 micrometers. The head part, in which one can also find the chromosome set, has a size of about 5 micrometers. The remaining part of the sperm, i.e. the neck and the attached tail, are around 50-55 micrometers in size. However, later only the head penetrates the egg cell. Since it is often very difficult to imagine the size, a comparison with the female egg cell is useful here. At around 120-150 micrometers, this is about twice the size of a male sperm

What is the sperm count?

The sperm count is now based on the WHO guidelines (World health organization).
Here, a minimum of over 15 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate is the norm.

However, the number of sperm per milliliter of ejaculate can reach 150 million.

An ejaculation usually consists of 2 to 6 milliliters of semen, which according to the WHO leads to a total sperm count of at least 39 million sperm per ejaculation.

Sperm survival time

The sperm survival time depends on where it is measured. A distinction is made between the lifespan of sperm in the male testicle, the survival time in the female reproductive organs and the survival time in the air.

After the sperm have matured in the testicular tissue and their development is complete there, their survival time is here up to a month. During ejaculation, the sperm reach the male urinary-seminal tube via the vas deferens.

After ejaculation, the sperm swim in the sperm fluid; this protects them from environmental influences.
The average survival time of the sperm within the female reproductive organs three to five days. In some cases, the sperm survival time can even be just under seven days.

Sperm survival time in air

The survival time of the sperm in the air is significantly shorter than in the female reproductive organs. Sperm are very sensitive to the environment and not very viable. The sperm fluid protects them for some time. In the air, however, this liquid dries up, so that the sperm ultimately lose their protection and thereby die. The survival time of the sperm in the air therefore depends on when the ejaculate has dried off. Depending on the amount, this can take a few minutes to a few hours.

Are there sperm in the pleasure drop?

The drop of pleasure is a secretion of the Bulbourethral gland (CowperGland) of the man. The drop of pleasure is expelled from the urethra during sexual arousal and has a cleaning function on the urethra.
This increases the pH of the urethra, making the environment more alkaline, which increases the chances of the sperm surviving.

An additional function of the pleasure drop is the moisturizing effect. So you could call it the body's own lubricant.

Contrary to the earlier opinion, a 2011 study showed that sperm are definitely contained in the pleasure drop, even if the man urinated between the last ejaculation and the exit of the pleasure drop. It used to be assumed that when you urinate, the sperm remaining in the urethra would be eliminated.

Accordingly, according to current knowledge, sperm can also be transferred without ejaculation, only through the pleasure drops. This means that fertilization is also possible.

You might also be interested in: Fertile days

What is a semenogram?

A semen analysis is the medical analysis and evaluation of the male ejaculate. The sperm are analyzed with regard to fertility. A spermiogram is often used when the desire to have children is unfulfilled to check whether the man is impotent.

Alternatively, the semen analysis is used to check a vasectomy (Severing the vas deferens) to determine whether the man is still fertile or whether further interventions are necessary.
After two to three days of abstinence, a sperm sample is obtained through masturbation. This liquefies after a short time and is then analyzed.

In a sperm analysis, the ejaculate is microscopically examined for:

  • Agility,
  • Shape,
  • number
  • and vitality (Share of living sperm in the ejaculate) of the sperm examined.

In addition, the sperm sample is examined with the help of a laboratory analysis.
Here are e.g.

  • the pH value (Acidity),
  • the viscosity (viscosity),
  • the fructose content (Fructose - the source of energy for the sperm)
  • and the white blood cell count (Defense cells of the immune system) to investigate.

The findings can then be used to decide whether artificial insemination is necessary if you wish to have children. Alternatively, with simple changes in diet or everyday habits (Avoidance of heat / mechanical stress) cause an improvement in sperm quality and quantity.

Read more about this under: Semen analysis

Alcohol and fertility

alcohol is a well known Cell poisonthat has a damaging influence on many organs of the human body. The connection between alcohol and sperm fertility naturally also plays a decisive role. In general, it can be said that moderate alcohol consumption is not harmful in terms of sperm quality and fertility.
One study showed that a increased alcohol consumption with a decreased sperm countl goes along in the ejaculate. At the same time it comes to one Loss of quality of the sperm. The number of functional, i.e. reproductive, sperm cells is also reduced by increased alcohol consumption. Often, however, increased alcohol consumption is generally associated with a lifestyle that tends to be unhealthy, so that it is often not possible to precisely define which cause is responsible for which consequence.

Can drugs affect sperm quality?

Sperm production is a sensitive process that is susceptible to several sources of interference.
In addition to temperature and nicotine, drugs can also have a negative impact on sperm quality.

Above all, anabolic steroids, which are used, for example, to build muscle or as a hair restorer, can reduce the body's own testosterone production to such an extent that sperm development is disturbed. Antidepressants can also limit sperm production.

Medicines that have a positive effect on sperm quality include, above all, dietary supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc. However, so far there have been few studies on the subject.
So a positive effect can only be assumed so far.

Do antibiotics affect sperm quality?

Among the common antibiotics, there are also preparations that can influence the quality of sperm. For example, the antibiotics of the nitrofurane family (e.g. Nitrofurazone) have been found to have a negative impact on sperm count and quality.
Macrolide antibiotics (e.g. Erythromycin) are said to have described side effects. It is helpful here to check the side effects that are given in the package insert.

The influence on sperm quality differs from drug to drug and should be clarified individually.

How can you improve sperm quality?

As part of family planning, some couples make a futile attempt to get pregnant. This can have several causes. One possible cause of this is, for example, reduced sperm quality.
These can be reduced in number, too immobile to completely immobile, or simply too slow. A test to determine the quality and quantity of the sperm is the so-called spermiogram. For the couple, the question often arises whether and how one can improve the sperm quality. If the sperm are too slow, there are some tips on how to improve them:

In principle, a healthy lifestyle can be called here. This is a decisive factor in almost all diseases. It therefore also plays an important role in improving sperm quality.
Smoking should be strictly avoided. Alcohol may be drunk, but only in moderation and not regularly. In addition, the affected man should pay attention to a healthy diet. This includes the consumption of fruit and vegetables. In particular, some vitamins and nutrients are important to improve sperm quality and should therefore be consumed in sufficient quantities. Zinc in particular is mentioned again and again in connection with the improvement of sperm. Zinc, for example, can also be taken regularly by men as a dietary supplement. Vitamin E is also said to play an important role in improving the quality of sperm. If the sperm quality is reduced, eating nuts can also bring an improvement. It is also important that you pay attention to your weight and BMI (body mass index). This should neither be too low nor too high. One should therefore neither suffer from underweight nor from overweight. Regular exercise can also improve sperm quality. However, you shouldn't overdo it and do competitive sports, because competitive sports, in turn, can reduce the quality of sperm. At the same time, you should absolutely refrain from taking anabolic steroids to build muscle, as this greatly reduces and influences the quality of sperm. The affected couple should make sure they have a lively sex life. This reduces the amount of sperm and sperm fluid and the concentration of sperm cells in the secretion, but at the same time it improves both the quality and the mobility of the sperm cells.

Finally, the temperature of the testicles should also be mentioned. An increased testicular temperature also leads to an increase in the temperature of the sperm. However, these need a certain amount of cold in order to survive and not to die. Therefore, things should be avoided that can raise the temperature of the testicle.
The man should avoid frequent saunas, the seat heating in the car should not run all the time, but the computer on the lap can also raise the temperature.

With all of these tips, sperm that are too slow can get faster. If this is still unsuccessful, then often only artificial insemination will help.

Read more on the topic Infertility in men

Triggering sperm and labor - what is the connection?

The relationship between sperm and the induction of labor is currently insufficiently researched to give a clear answer.

The assumed connection is that sperm consists to a certain extent of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are tissue hormones that occur throughout the body and also contribute to inflammation, pain and blood clotting.

Prostaglandins are also attributed to stimulating smooth muscles, which also occurs in the uterus. Accordingly, prostaglandin-like substances (like Dinoproston®) used in obstetrics to induce labor.

It is questionable whether the concentration of prostaglandin in the semen is sufficient to induce labor. It is also believed that prostaglandins have a positive effect on fertilization by increasing the receptivity of the uterine lining.

Read more on the subject at: Induce labor