Fertility / The man / The male reproductive system

The male reproductive system

The stem cells of the male sperm cells are formed early on in the embryonic stage, and the number of stem cells will remain more or less constant throughout the rest of that person’s life.

Actual sperm production commences at around the age of 12 and continues throughout life. Sperm production is controlled by various hormones that are secreted by the pituitary gland, which is a hormone-producing gland in the brain. The hormones that control sperm production are FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinising hormone) respectively. FSH is the hormone which stimulates sperm production, while LH activates production of the male sex hormone testosterone.

Anatomically, the sperm cell itself consists of a head, a middle section and a tail. The sperm cells swim up the woman’s cervical canal and uterus and out through the fallopian tubes so that a single sperm cell can reach the egg cell and fertilise it. The sperm cell, which is the male sex cell, is produced in the testicles in thin tubes which lead to the epididymis. The sperm cells are stored here while they mature. The epididymis leads to the spermatic cord, which on ejaculation sends sperm mixed in with fluid from the seminal vesicles and prostate gland through to the urethra, where semen is released.

With ejaculation, 2-6 ml of seminal fluid is normally ejaculated that typically contains 60-450 million sperm cells. The amount of seminal fluid does not necessarily provide any indication of the quality of the sperm cells and may vary. Sperm quality is affected by many factors, including the period of time between each ejaculation. In addition, there is a big variation in different sperm samples from the same man. Therefore, it is recommended that at least two sperm analyses be carried out over a period of three-four weeks if the first sperm count proves to be reduced, before coming to any conclusion about sperm quality. To find out more about the actual sperm quality, you have to look more closely at the motility and appearance of the sperm cells. The sperm quantity does not provide enough information to arrive at conclusions.

Reference values from the WHO laboratory manual, 5th edn. 2010 for normal sperm quality:

  • Volume: >1.5 ml
  • Sperm cell concentration: >15 million/ml
  • Total number of sperm cells: >39 million/ml
  • Vital (live) sperm cells: > 50%
  • Percentage of normal-shaped sperm cells: >4%
  • Motile sperm cells: > 40%
  • Leucocytes (white blood cells): <1 million/ml

If the man’s sperm is to be used for insemination or IVF at StorkKlinik, a sperm sample has to have been given so that we can advise you and recommend the best fertility treatment for your situation.

Healthy sperm cells can probably fertilise an egg for up to about 72 hours after ejaculation. Sperm cells that have undergone washing for the purposes of insemination are thought to be capable of fertilising an egg for 48-72 hours, or perhaps longer, while sperm cells that have been frozen are thought to be capable of fertilising an egg for up to 24 hours.

 

 

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Stork IVF Klinik | St. Kongensgade 40 H, 1. sal | DK-1264 Copenhagen K
Tel. +45 3257 3316 | Fax +45 3257 3346 | info@storkklinik.dk | CVR. No. 33 03 49 11

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