Women are born will all of the eggs that they will ever have, and these are "spent" every cycle until menopause. Men, on the other hand, can produce sperm from the onset of sexual maturity for their entire lives.
Sperm formation, just like egg maturation, is controlled by follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), the latter of which is responsible for triggering the male sex hormone, testosterone. This hormone is also responsible for controlling th LH formation of secondary sexual characteristics and sex drive.
The onset of sexual maturity (puberty) sees the testes start to produce millions of sperm cells. Sperm cells spend around 10 weeks in the testes at the start of their lifespan, before passing into the epididymides (duct behind the testes), where they continue to mature for roughly two more weeks. This is where they acquire their motility (ability to move), form their head containing male genetic material and tail which generates kinetic energy and drives the sperm.
During ejaculation, muscle contractions push out the sperm cells via the seminal ducts and the urethra. In the case of sexual intercourse with someone with female sexual organs, the sperm travels through the vagina, cervix and uterus to the fallopian tubes. If there is a mature egg in the fallopian tube, the sperm cells try to penetrate the wall of the egg cell and embed themselves inside. If one sperm is successful, the outer layer of the egg closes off so that more sperm cannot penetrate it, and the egg is fertilised, meaning conception had occurred.
A single ejaculation contains 300-400 million sperm cells and the vast majority will not make it anywhere near the egg. If the quantity of sperm cells is significantly below this average or if there is an issue with motility, fertility may be impaired.
Insufficient sperm motility is the number one reason behind male infertility. The WHO defines "normal" sperm motility according to the following values:
Amount of ejaculate: > 2 ml
pH-value of the ejaculate: > 7.2
Total number of sperm cells in the ejaculate: > 40 million
Sperm concentration: > 20 million sperm/ml
Morphology of the sperm: > 15% regularly formed
Sperm motility: > 50% with forward movement or 25% with progressive movement within 60 min. after ejaculation
We will establish whether sperm is a potential cause of infertility during a comprehensive sperm analysis in our labs. Based on its results, we will advise you regarding further diagnosis and or treatment methods.