In the field of reproductive biology, numerous widely believed facts about sperm have been debunked by scientific research. This article aims to explore and clarify 12 commonly held misconceptions surrounding sperm.
By examining the latest scientific findings, we will shed light on the truth behind these popular beliefs. From the movement and journey of sperm to the impact of semen thickness, aging, and underwear choice on sperm count, we will delve into the facts that challenge these long-standing assumptions.
Stay tuned to uncover the fascinating truth about sperm.
Misconception #1: Sperm Are Fast Swimmer
Contrary to popular belief, there are several misconceptions surrounding the movement and journey of sperm. The sperm’s navigation and guidance during the journey to the egg is a complex process that involves various factors.
While it’s commonly assumed that sperm swim in a straight line towards the egg, the truth is that sperm have different patterns of movement. Motility, the ability to move, is classified into three groups: progressive, non-progressive, and immotile.
Additionally, the speed and efficiency of sperm movement can be influenced by several factors, including the presence of cervical mucus, the contractions of the uterus muscles, and the structure of the female reproductive system. Understanding the accurate processes and factors involved in sperm movement is crucial for fertility and reproductive health.
Misconception #2: Thicker Semen Has Greater Fertility
When it comes to semen thickness and myths surrounding the female reproductive system, there are several widely believed facts that are actually false. One such myth is that thicker semen indicates higher fertility.
In reality, semen thickness does not determine sperm quality or fertility. Thicker semen may simply indicate a higher sperm concentration or irregularly shaped sperm.
Another myth is that the female reproductive system has no impact on sperm quality. In fact, the female reproductive system plays a crucial role in supporting sperm by widening the cervix, increasing the number of crypts, and thinning the mucus barrier.
These factors facilitate the movement and survival of sperm, increasing the chances of successful fertilization. Understanding the true impact of the female reproductive system on sperm quality is important for couples trying to conceive.
Misconception #3: Sperm Have a Short Lifespan Once Released
Sperm lifespan and survival are often misunderstood, leading to false beliefs about their longevity. One common myth is that sperm can survive for several days outside the body.
In reality, sperm are very sensitive to temperature and environmental conditions. They require the warm and moist environment of the female reproductive system to survive and reach the egg. Sperm exposed to cold or dry environments, such as in hot baths or hot tubs, can quickly die.
Additionally, there is a misconception about the speed at which sperm swim. Contrary to popular belief, sperm do not swim with lightning-fast speed. Their swimming speed is relatively slow, averaging about 1-4 millimeters per minute.
It’s important to have accurate information about sperm lifespan and survival to make informed decisions regarding fertility and contraception.
Misconception #4: Sperm Travels Directly to the Egg
Sperm have a lengthy journey to reach the egg. When they are released during intercourse, they do not immediately head straight to the uterus.
Instead, some sperm attach to oviduct epithelial cells in the fallopian tubes or remain stored in small chambers called crypts until the ideal moment for fertilization: ovulation.
Here is the path that sperm must pass before reaching the egg:
- Vagina: The first and outermost portion, typically measuring three to six inches in length.
- Cervix: A small, cylindrical canal that connects the vagina to the uterus.
- Uterus (or womb): The place where a fetus develops during pregnancy.
- Fallopian tubes: Two tubes that connect the uterus to the ovaries, providing a pathway for sperm to move towards egg cells and for fertilized eggs to travel into the uterus.
- Ovaries: Two organs responsible for producing egg cells that can be fertilized and develop into fetuses.
Misconception #5: Underwear Choice Impacts Sperm Count
Tight undies supposedly have a negative impact on sperm count, while loose boxers are believed to maintain an ideal temperature for sperm production. However, the truth is not so straightforward, and it could be that underwear has minimal influence on your sperm.
According to a study conducted in 2016, the choice of underwear did not significantly affect sperm count. On the other hand, a more recent study in 2018 caused a stir in the scientific community by demonstrating that men who wore boxers had 17 percent more sperm compared to those in briefs.
However, it’s important to note that the 2018 study did not consider other factors that can impact sperm production, such as the type of pants or the fabric of the underwear. Interestingly, the body might compensate for increased testicle heat by releasing additional follicle-stimulating hormone, which boosts sperm production.
Bottom line, boxers might offer a slightly more sperm-friendly environment, but ultimately, it’s best to wear whatever underwear makes you feel comfortable.
Misconception #6: Sperm Are Healthy & Fertile All Throughout a Man’s Life
Contrary to a long-standing myth, it is not true that sperm remains fertile and healthy throughout a man’s entire life. While it is accurate that sperm production, known as spermatogenesis, continues indefinitely, the quality and motility of sperm tend to decline with age.
Additionally, older men have a higher chance of passing on genetic mutations to their children. For example, an Icelandic study revealed that men are four times more likely to do so compared to women.
Furthermore, a comprehensive study conducted in Sweden in 2017, involving 1.4 million individuals, consistently demonstrated a direct correlation between a man’s age and the likelihood of their children being born with a genetic mutation that neither parent possesses.
Misconception #7: All Sperm Cells Are Able to Fertilize the Egg
Contrary to popular belief, most sperm do not successfully reach the egg due to various reasons. To be considered fertile, it is not necessary for 100 percent of sperm to be actively moving. As long as 40 percent of the sperm demonstrate motility, fertility is assured.
However, even among that 40 percent, not all sperm manage to reach the egg.
The success of sperm depends significantly on their shape. Sperm with multiple heads, oddly shaped tails, or missing components are deemed unfit for the journey through the female reproductive tract.
Furthermore, even healthy sperm face stiff competition. Some sperm can traverse the oviduct but ultimately end up in the woman’s interstitial fluid, which surrounds the internal organs. Essentially, these sperm float around in the body without ever fulfilling their fertilization potential.
Misconception #8: Pre-Cum Can’t Cause Pregnancy
Let’s set the record straight. While biologically pre-cum should not contain sperm, it is possible for residual sperm from previous ejaculations to be present in the urethra, the tube responsible for both urine and semen discharge.
Although the quantity of sperm in pre-cum is not as high as in fresh semen, a 2011 study involving 27 subjects revealed that nearly 37 percent of collected pre-cum samples contained a significant amount of healthy and motile sperm.
Furthermore, a 2016 study conducted with 42 men showed that at least 17 percent of pre-cum samples contained active and mobile sperm.
This means that even if the withdrawal method is used, there is a small possibility for sperm to be released and potentially result in a pregnancy.
Misconception #9: For Pregnancy to Occur, the More Sperm Cells the Better
Contrary to common belief, having a higher volume of semen and more sperm is not necessarily better when trying to conceive.
While it is beneficial to have a sufficient semen volume, there is a point where the returns start diminishing. When sperm concentration is higher, there is an increased chance of multiple sperm fertilizing the egg.
Typically, only a single sperm cell is allowed to fertilize one egg cell, resulting in embryo development. Once the first sperm breaks through a protective layer around the egg, this layer prevents additional sperm from penetrating.
However, if an excessive number of sperm manage to reach the egg, it can lead to polyspermy, where two or more sperm fertilize the same egg. This can introduce extra genetic material, potentially raising the risk of DNA mutations and various health conditions such as Down syndrome. It can also result in potentially fatal defects in the heart, spine, and skull.
It’s important to keep this in mind, particularly if you and your partner opt for in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a method of conception. IVF bypasses certain natural reproductive mechanisms that regulate the number of sperm reaching the egg, so a highly excessive amount of sperm is not necessary for fertility.
Misconception #10: Sperm is Packed With Protein
Let’s debunk a popular myth that has often been joked about. Contrary to claims, you would need to consume over 100 ejaculates to derive any nutritional benefit from semen.
While it is true that semen contains components such as vitamin C, zinc, protein compounds, cholesterol, and sodium, it is misleading to suggest that sperm contributes significantly to your daily nutritional intake.
Moreover, it is important to note that some individuals can experience allergic reactions to semen, making ingestion not recommended for everyone.
Misconception #11: Over-the-Counter Lubricants Can Harm Sperm
This one is only partly false: Some lubricants can have a significant impact on the motility and viability of sperm and decrease their chances of successfully fertilizing an egg. However, some lubricants are perfectly safe for sperm.
Water-based lubricants are generally considered sperm-friendly and safe to use. However, oil-based and silicone-based lubricants can negatively affect sperm by impairing their ability to swim and reducing their overall viability.
It’s important to note that natural lubrication, produced by the body, is usually sufficient for successful sperm movement during intercourse. If additional lubrication is needed, it’s advisable to choose lubricants that are specifically labeled as sperm-friendly or consult a healthcare professional for guidance in selecting the most suitable lubricant for couples trying to conceive.
Misconception #12: A Woman Must Have an Orgasm to Get Pregnant
Female orgasm has no direct impact on the transport of sperm to the egg. This fact debunks the common myth that female orgasm is necessary for successful fertilization.
While female orgasm enhances sexual pleasure, it does not affect the process of sperm transport or fertility. The relationship between female orgasm and fertility is purely subjective and varies from person to person.
Fertilization can occur without the occurrence of a female orgasm, as the primary purpose of orgasm is to enhance sexual pleasure. It’s important to dispel the myth surrounding the connection between female orgasm and sperm transport, as it can lead to misunderstandings about conception and fertility.
It’s crucial to dispel the widely believed misconceptions surrounding sperm in order to provide accurate information about human reproduction. Through scientific research, we have debunked myths about sperm movement, semen thickness, sperm lifespan, aging, underwear choice, lubricants, and female orgasm, among others.
By understanding the truth behind these misconceptions, individuals can make informed decisions regarding their reproductive health and fertility. It’s important to continue promoting a better understanding of the fascinating world of human reproduction based on scientific evidence.
Jacob Rastani is the editor in chief of The Sperm Count Report, and is in charge of reviewing all editorial content for the website, social media, and video platforms. He has over 12 years experience as a senior editor national news websites, where he oversaw production of content relating to health and fitness, medical news, medicine, and fertility and reproductive health.