Things You Didn’t Know About the Lifecycle of Sperm
If you or your partner are preparing to have a child, or already have begun this process, it is important to understand the male reproductive system, specifically the lifecycle of the sperm. The male sperm goes through a unique cycle which can be summarized in four stages: production, maturation, ejaculation and fertilization. An adequate understanding of this process can help you increase your chances of pregnancy.
Phase #1: Sperm Production
Sperm is produced in the testicles, which is also where other male hormones such as testosterone are housed. On average, it takes men 50 to 60 days to produce new sperm within the testicles and complete the sperm production process. Healthy men produce sperm at a rate of about 60,000 sperm cells every minute. However, the number and quality of sperm a man produces is based on a number of factors, such as obesity, alcohol and drug use, stress and overheating of the testicles.
Phase #2: Maturation
Once created, sperm is then stored inside the epididymis until it reaches maturation. The epididymis is a small curved duct that rests alongside the back of each testicle which stores and transports sperm.
After production, sperm is stored within the epididymis for approximately 2-3 months until it reaches maturation. Characteristics of fully matured sperm include a completely formed head and tail so that it resembles the shape of a tadpole. The head of a sperm cell contains all of the male’s DNA that will be passed on to the female egg. The tail of a sperm cell will help it move through the female reproductive tract to expectantly reach the female egg.
Phase #3: Ejaculation
After ejaculation, sperm cannot survive outside of the male’s body for more than a few seconds to minutes depending on the environment. If sperm is ejaculated directly inside the female reproductive tract, it can survive up to 5-6 days inside the female body. Although this may seem like a long time, a sperm cell’s journey to the female egg is difficult and many will not survive. A teaspoon of ejaculated semen usually contains roughly 250 million sperm cells. It is estimated that out of every 2 million sperm cells that enter the cervix, only 200 will even reach the female egg to attempt fertilization.
Phase #4: Fertilization
When the male sperm successfully reaches and enters the female egg, this process is known as fertilization or more commonly “conception.” From here, the sperm cell and female egg go through a process of fusion to form a zygote. A zygote is the name for a cell with DNA makeup from two sources, or a mother and father. The fertilized egg is then transported to the uterine cavity and must successfully implant into the tissue that lines the female’s uterus. In several days the zygote will then develop into an embryo and later grow into a fetus.
If you and your partner are struggling to become pregnant, it helps to understand the basics of the male reproduction system. Sperm production is a complex process that requires the work of several organs in the body that can be impacted by lifestyle choices, medical issues and environmental factors.