Race to the Finish: The Viability of Sperm in Male Virility

The subject of male infertility is any health issue affecting the male reproductive capability that lowers or negates the chances of his female partner getting pregnant. In the United States, around 15 out of 100 couples can't get pregnant with unprotected sex within a year. If a couple is unable to conceive within a year without medical intervention, they are considered to have fertility issues.

There are many causes of infertility in men and women alike. In over one-third of infertility cases, the problem is with the man. This is most often due to problems with his sperm production or with sperm delivery. In other sperm production or delivery issues, there are also issues with abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices and other factors can play a role in causing male infertility. We are going to explore male fertility in detail.

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17 What Is Male Fertility?

Male fertility is a complex issue, requiring many discrete processes. In order to impregnate a woman, many things must occur without a hitch. The post-puberty male must be capable of producing healthy sperm. This involves the maturation of the male reproductive organs (penis and testis) during puberty. This requires at least one functional testicle, and his body must produce testosterone and other hormones to trigger and maintain sperm production/maturation. Sperm has to be carried into the semen (acts as carrying agent for sperm). Once spermatozoa are produced in the testicles, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen and are ejaculated out of the penis.

There needs to be enough sperm in the semen to bring the odds of conception to a particular level of efficacy (survival). If the number of sperm in your semen (sperm count) is too low, it decreases the overall odds that a single sperm will fertilize his partner's egg. A sperm count numbering lower than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or fewer than 39 million per ejaculation. These levels of motile (living/healthy/moving) sperm are not likely to result in conception. Sperm must be functional and fully able to move. If the movement (motility) or function of your sperm is abnormal, the sperm may not be able to reach or penetrate your partner's egg.

16 What Is Sperm?

Spermatozoa are the male reproductive cells used in procreation. Spermatozoa are made in hundreds of microscopic tubes known as seminiferous tubules, which make up most of the testicle's tissue mass. Around these tubules are clumps of tissue containing "Leydig" cells, which produce testosterone when stimulated by "luteinizing" hormone (LH). In sperm development, the life cycle of sperm takes approximately 74 days. Spermatozoa begin partially embedded in "Sertoli" cells, which are in the lower parts of the seminiferous tubules. As these cells mature and move along, they become housed in the upper part of the tubules. Immature sperm cells are known as spermatids. These spermatids mature and become sperm.

When the sperm has completed the development of its head and tail, it is released from the cell into the epididymis. The epididymis is a C-shaped tube that is 1/300th of an inch in diameter yet it's about 20 feet long. It loops back and forth on itself within a space that is only about one and a half inches long. The sperm's journey through the epididymis takes about 3 weeks.

The fluid (semen) in which the sperm is transported contains sugar in the form of fructose, which provides energy as the sperm matures. In the early stages of its passage, the sperm cannot swim in a forward direction and can only vibrate its tail weakly. By the time the sperm reaches the end of the epididymis, however, it is mature and appears to be a microscopic squirming tadpole. Once mature, each healthy sperm has two parts, a head that contains the man's genetic material (half of his DNA code) and a tail that lashes back and forth at great speed to provide the head forward momentum at about four times its own length every second. A sperm's motility or ability to move forward is one of the key elements of male fertility.

15 Is Male Infertility Common?

The issue of infertility is complex. Allow me to share with you some norms in male fertility. In a recent U.S. study, it has been suggested that after 1 year of having unprotected sex, 15 percent of couples cannot conceive, and after 2 years, 10 percent of couples still have not had a successful pregnancy. In couples younger than age 30 who are generally healthy, 20 to 37 percent are able to conceive in the first 3 months. A wide range of medical conditions and other factors can contribute to the problem of infertility, and an individual case may have a single cause, several causes, or in some cases, no readily identifiable cause. Male reproductive issues cause one-third of infertility. Female reproductive issues cause one-third of fertility issues. The final one-third of issues is caused by both male and female reproductive issues or by unknown factors.

14 What Are the Symptoms of Male Infertility?

In simplest terms, the most readily identifiable symptom of infertility is the inability to conceive with your female significant other. There may be no other readily obvious signs or symptoms. In many cases, an underlying problem, such as an inherited disorder, hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicle (s), or a condition which obstructs the passage of sperm, causes signs and symptoms. On the other hand, men with male infertility do not notice symptoms other than the inability to conceive a child, signs and symptoms associated with male infertility can be many.

The most common problem is with sexual function, e.g. difficulty ejaculating or producing small volumes of fluid (semen) ejaculate, or even as simple as a reduced sexual desire. There can be difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction). Pain, swelling or a lump in the testicle area can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for the sexual act. If the man suffers from recurrent respiratory infections, diminished oxygenation can lead to minimal or limited erectile performance. These are obvious symptoms of sexual dysfunction but there are other symptoms for which to keep an eye out.

The more obscure symptoms are things like the inability to smell or abnormal breast growth (gynecomastia). If a man has decreased facial or body hair, he may also have other signs of a chromosomal or hormonal abnormalities. If, upon consultation, he finds that he has a lower than normal sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate), he may be suffering a hereditary disorder preventing him from producing a viable amount of sperm for conception.

13 What Can Cause Male Infertility?

The male reproductive system, much like the female reproductive system, is delicate. A variety of disorders, ranging from hormonal disturbances to physical problems to psychological problems, can cause male infertility. Although many treatment options are now available, in many cases treatment will not work. In many instances, male infertility is caused by irreversible testicular damage resulting in an inability of the testicle to produce sperm. Once damaged, the testicle will not usually regain its function.

This is one of the most disheartening aspect of male infertility; it is analogous to menopause (though not a part of the natural life cycle like menopause) for women and cannot usually be treated. Despite medicine’s limited ability to treat male infertility, many successful treatment options are available for its many causes. Besides testicular damage, the main causes of male infertility are low sperm production and poor sperm quality.

12 Known Causes for Infertility

Male infertility has many causes, which are illustrated throughout this article. Here we focus on the most common external and/or treated causes of male fertility issues. While hormonal imbalances, or physical problems, or perhaps psychological and/or behavioral problems are all perfectly valid and reasonable, they are not always treatable. Fertility can be a good barometer of a man's overall health. Men who live a healthy lifestyle are more likely to produce healthy sperm. There are many lifestyle choices that negatively affect male fertility.

As a for instance, a man who smokes is almost guaranteed to suffer a significant decrease in both sperm count and sperm cell motility. In the case of prolonged marijuana use and other recreational drugs, the same is true. If a man is a chronic alcohol abuser, he may suffer fertility issues. Prolonged anabolic steroid use can cause not only infertility but testicular shrinkage. If in the case of intense exercise, the effort produces high levels of adrenal steroid hormones, which can cause a testosterone deficiency resulting in infertility.

The importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstressed. Inadequate vitamin C and Zinc in the diet negatively affects sperm production. Even some things you might find absurd, such as tight underwear, can increase scrotal temperature, which results in decreased sperm production. If a man is exposed to environmental hazards and toxins such as pesticides, lead, paint, radiation, radioactive substances, mercury, benzene, boron, and or heavy metals, he may be rendered completely sterile permanently.

In the case of malnutrition and anemia, the body will stop producing both sperm and semen. In the case of excessive stress or sleep deprivation, the body will also see a decrease in viable sperm production. The good news is if a man modifies these behaviors, he can improve his fertility and should be considered when a couple is trying to achieve a healthy pregnancy.

11 How Is Male Infertility Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose infertility in a man, a fertility examination is required. This is performed by a medical professional (urologist). The doctor usually takes a medical history, performs a physical examination, gives the man in question general hormone tests and a semen analysis. The semen analysis measures semen volume and sperm count. The spontaneous sperm movement and quality of motion are also measured. All these factors are measured against a baseline in order to provide the diagnoses. If no issue is found with the physical condition of the patient, he may be referred to psychiatric services. The patient’s issues with fertility may be psychological or mood based.

10 How Is Male Infertility Treated?

A diagnosis of male infertility can be one of the hardest challenges a man can face. For some, it can be devastating as it calls into question fundamental concepts of manhood and virility. After all, the necessity of reproduction is one of the few things on which both science and the religion agree upon. Not being able to father a child can make a man feel like he’s failing at one of his most primal responsibilities. Some men have to cope with the reality that nothing can be done about their infertility. The ultimate goal of male infertility treatment is to create a naturalistic pregnancy. Ideally, the cause of the infertility is reversible and then conception can result from natural sex.

If the issue is vascular (dealing with the circulatory system) such as varicoceles can be repaired with surgery to block of abnormal veins. Most studies say it results in a significant improvement in fertility, though there are a few who disagree. Hormonal imbalances can be treated with medicine or surgery in many cases. Obstructions in the transport of sperm can be surgically corrected. Other than these methods, there has been some success with various medications and external procedures.

9 What Is I.C.S.I?

I.C.S.I stands for Intracytoplasmic sperm injection and it differs from conventional in vitro fertilization in that the embryologist selects a single sperm to be injected directly into an egg. The alternate form of artificial fertilization is taking place in a dish where many spermatozoa are placed near an egg to be fertilized by natural selection. There are variable choices of sperm selection used by fertility specialists. Some fertility clinics choose to use fresh sperm that has just been extracted, while others prefer to do the ICSI procedure with frozen sperm. There appears to be no difference in pregnancy rates between those who use fresh or frozen sperm during the I.C.S.I process. Using a technique called micromanipulation, the doctor performs the I.C.S.I procedure. Micromanipulation uses a special microscope, along with micro-scale surgical tools, to pick up and handle one single sperm, injecting it directly into an egg. The I.C.S.I procedure can help you achieve I.V.F pregnancy success even when male infertility problems are an issue.

8 How Do You Prevent Male Infertility?

Many types of male infertility aren't preventable. However, men can avoid some known causes of male infertility. As mentioned earlier in this article, men concerned about his fertility should not smoke. They should limit their intake of or abstain entirely from alcohol. Completely abstain from any and all illicit drug use. A man should keep fit, as losing weight is linked to an uptake in healthy sperm production. The testicles must be kept cool so try and wear boxers whenever possible. They even make boxers that have an ice pouch to assist in cooling. In order to keep a man's sperm count high, he must keep his stress as low as possible. Finally, it is good practice in general to avoid exposure to heavy metals and other toxins.

7 Can Advanced Age Cause Infertility Issues in Men?

In modern society, most women realize that their biological clock ticks as they age; the same cannot be said for men. Most men not only don’t realize a decline in fertility, they deny it. Until recently, popular belief held that men could father children as easily at 78 as they could at 18. It seems that the mounting body of evidence is showing otherwise.

In one study of couples undergoing high-tech infertility treatments, researchers concluded that a man's chances of fathering a child decrease with each passing year. In the study, the odds of a successful pregnancy fell by 11 percent every year; their chances of obtaining a successful live birth declined even further. So it seems as men age, so does the ability to produce viable sperm. There is most definitely an effect on fertility.

6 What Are the Emotional Effects on a Male Infertility on a Man's Ego?

It is too often the case that men see a diagnosis of their own infertility as detracting from at their manhood. Now objectively this is far from true, however, they may see their inability to fertilize their partner's egg, and provide a family as a defining element of their masculinity. As if to add insult to injury, the infertility tests that are required to determine a man's fertility status are often seen humiliating.

Many men may additionally suffer from feelings of guilt after a diagnosis of male infertility, and may wonder if their wives think less of them. The insecurity and self-loathing born of this internal state can send many men into a depression, which will further lower their fertility rate. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of self-loathing that if not carefully monitored could lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. This method of ill-advised coping includes, but is not limited to, hyper-masculine activities, danger-seeking and/or substance abuse.

5 What Is Male Menopause: Myth or Fact?

The tentative answer is yes, but because men do not go through a well-defined period referred to as menopause, some doctors refer to this problem as androgen (testosterone) decline in the aging male or what some people call low testosterone. Having made that clear, men do experience a decline in the production of the male hormone testosterone with aging, but this also occurs with conditions such as diabetes. With the decline in testosterone, some men experience symptoms that include fatigue, weakness, sexual problems and depression. The relationship between these symptoms and observed testosterone levels are still controversial.

4 Male Menopause Treatments

The most common type of treatment for symptoms of male menopause (andropause) is making a few healthy lifestyle changes. The first thing is to eat a healthy diet. You will need to get regular exercise and a full night of sleep. Simple things like this can have a dramatic effect on testosterone levels.

These lifestyle habits can benefit all men. After adopting these habits, men who are experiencing symptoms of male menopause may see a dramatic change in their overall health.

If a man experiences depression, a doctor may prescribe antidepressants, therapy, and lifestyle changes. In extreme cases, hormone replacement therapy is another treatment option. It’s very controversial because like performance-enhancing steroids, synthetic testosterone can have damaging side effects. A prime example being, if a man has prostate cancer (which can lead to erectile dysfunction), it may cause the cancer cells to grow. If a doctor suggests hormone replacement therapy, a man must weigh all of the positives and negatives before making his decision.

3 When Should You See a Doctor?

Do not panic if you do not get pregnant right away. You can increase your chances of becoming pregnant by practicing fertility awareness. This means for a woman charting her basal body temperature and using home tests to let her know when she is likely to ovulate and thus be fertile. For men, adopting a healthy lifestyle and keeping their testicles as cool as possible is the best recommendation. If theses minor methods fail, it's time to seek medical attention. If a couple has gone through a year while attempting to get pregnant with no results, seek medical advice.

2 Perception of Male Virility in Terms of Fertility

Virility/fertility in men is very closely linked in Western cultures. A man is very often defined by his ability to father a family. Masculinity is a social construct, however, it is made up of both social defined and biologically inherent factors. The male member is to a lesser or greater extent linked to his masculine qualities, such as courage independence and assertiveness. The concept of machismo is an overemphasis on these traits but they are still almost exclusively linked to the male identity of self. The concepts of virility are linked to inexorably to the society's view of a man.

1 Sources:

1. Ovulationcalculator.com

2. Medicaldaily.com

3. Justmommies.com

4. Fivethirtyeight.com

5. Shadygrovefertility.com

6. Differencebetween.net

7. Sciencedaily.com

8. Pubmed.com

9. Hopkinsmedicine.org

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