Sperm are a vital part of the life force, responsible for all of us being here. While it is amazing to think that each of us was generated from these microscopic entities, it is just one of sperm’s many shocking mysteries. How much do you really know about these little swimmers? Read on to find out!
The Relationship Between Sperm and Semen
They are not one and the same! Sperm are an ingredient in semen, but semen is the term used to describe the entirety of a man’s ejaculate, which is a composition of enzymes including protein and vitamin C. Sperm account for only about 5 percent to 10 percent of a man’s ejaculate.
Semen Has an Array of Ingredients
There are many ingredients in semen, and its makeup is similar for every man. Some of the components are vitamin C, calcium, chlorine, cholesterol, citric acid, creatine, fructose, lactic acid, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamin B12, and zinc.
Sperm Live a Long Time
Talk about longevity — sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to five days after intercourse! But don’t worry, sperm cannot live on other surfaces or in hot tubs, pools, or the like since most pools and hot tubs are treated with chemicals that would kill sperm right away. Even in plain, untreated water, sperm could live for only mere moments — so don’t fret, you won’t get pregnant from hopping in that communal hot tub.
If You’ve Seen One Sperm, You’ve Seen ‘Em All?
Semen is usually white or grey, but can occasionally appear yellowish. Pink or red semen suggests that blood is present. Although this is only rarely due to a serious health problem, men with semen that seems bloodstained should seek advice from their family doctor. A normal sperm has an oval head and a long tail, which work together to propel it forward. Sperm with large, small, tapered, or crooked heads or kinky, curled, or double tails are less likely to fertilize an egg.
Sperm Can Be Male or Female
Did you know that there are male and female sperm? And get this, female sperm are actually stronger than male sperm, meaning that you might be more likely to become impregnated by a female swimmer than a male one! Female sperm carry an “X” chromosome and make baby girls, while male sperm carry a “Y” chromosome and make baby boys.
The Perfect Temperature
Sperm are manufactured in the testicles, which are located outside the body because sperm need a cool environment to thrive. In fact, one recent study found that men who work with their laptops directly on their laps might even experience a lower sperm count because it warms up their temperature down there!
Millions and Millions of Sperm
An average human ejaculate contains about 180 million sperm (66 million/ml), but some ejaculates contain as many as 400 million sperm. Both quantity and quality of the sperm are important determinants of fertility.
The Many Benefits of Sperm
Believe it or not, people have actually studied the potential health benefits of sperm, and it turns out there might be quite a few. Research suggests that sperm can do everything from decreasing depressive symptoms to decreasing blood pressure. (The study was performed on women who had unprotected sex with their partners, thereby allowing the vagina to absorb the sperm.) While researchers aren’t sure why sperm have this effect, it is an interesting finding…but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice safer sex every time!
What Orange Juice and Semen Have in Common
Ever wondered what orange juice and semen have in common? Probably not! But they both include vitamin C, and semen also includes citric acid, sodium, and zinc. In fact, men who want to become fathers are encouraged to eat a diet that includes plenty of zinc, as this is believed to help promote healthy sperm production.
This Source of Protein Will Not Make You Fat
No matter how much you love your partner, do you love him enough to add inches to your waistline just to keep him satisfied? Thankfully, the caloric content of the average ejaculate is estimated to be approximately five to 25 calories — hardly the most fattening meal. The protein content of semen is roughly equivalent to that found in the egg white of a large egg.
It’s Salty Because It Nourishes the Sperm
The salts are a normal part of the seminal fluid produced in the seminal vesicle. This sugary/salty fluid is used to nourish the sperm on their long journey to the egg.
Sperm Quality Can Be Improved
The standard healthy-lifestyle prescription of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, managing stress, getting plenty of exercise, and taking a daily multivitamin all aid in optimal sperm production and function.
Sperm Can Be Made Tastier
A man can actually improve the taste of his sperm by avoiding dairy, coffee, and potent herbs like onions and garlic. He can make his sperm taste sweeter by enjoying fruits and by drinking plenty of water.
Use It for a Facial
Spermine, a powerful antioxidant originally discovered in, yes, human sperm, is said to diminish wrinkles and smooth the skin. The substance is now being synthesized in laboratories and sold by a Norwegian company. A swanky New York spa was offering spermine facials for $250.
Semen in the Animal World
Ever wondered what member of the animal world packs the most sperm in its ejaculate? Well, probably not, but the answer is pigs, followed by cows, sheep, and finally, man. And the animal with the least amount of sperm per ejaculate? Mice, of course!
Semen is sticky because it contains an enzyme that makes it clot into a gel-like substance. And don’t worry, sperm can’t live on in semen after it meets the air and dries, so they cannot remain viable on clothes or sheets or other surfaces. That being said, semen can be tricky to get out of certain fabrics, so don’t be too careless with the stuff.
Do Toxins Adversely Affect Sperm?
Smoking can cause sperm to be misshapen and move slowly. In addition, smoking can damage sperm’s DNA, possibly affecting a baby’s growth, development, and risk of cancer. Chewing tobacco may also lower sperm count. Heavy drinking can reduce the quality and quantity of sperm, and marijuana can decrease sperm motility and increase the number of abnormal sperm.
What STDs Can Really Be Transferred Through Oral Sex by Semen?
The lining of the mouth is a much more delicate region than that of the vagina and can actually be much more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. STDs like chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and genital warts can all be spread through oral-genital contact.
Last Updated: 11/20/12. By Laura Berman, PhD
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