We thought we should do a little bit on men as, well, they’re here.
Men are different to us. You may have noticed this. Men are driven by a whole different set of hormones to us, but we share a lot of similar ones. For example, we have testosterone and they have estrogen. It’s just we have a lot of different levels of these hormones.
Men vs Women
Aside from the fact that they have a penis and we have a vagina, men are just as delicate a balance as we are. No really.
They too are a seething mass of hormones and they too struggle with their levels at times as well. While the obvious differences like height, weight and adipose (that’s our fat distribution) are obvious, not to mention men have a penis, we have a vagina and our sex organs are like crackers and cheese (totally different but when put together just work!) it’s all really down to chromosomes.
In a nutshell, men posses an XY chromosome on their 23rd pair and we have an XX chromosome on our 23rd pair (I’m not even going to try and get into the depths of genetics here – if i can persuade my friend Jo – a geneticist – to fill this in on a blog post i promise i will!). That is what makes us boys and girls (and sometimes a bit of both or neither – you know what, it’s all good!).
I won’t go into puberty as it was bad enough for all of us going through it, suffice to say that we women started our periods shortly after getting boobs, starting to grow hips and sprouting extra body hair due to the pituitary gland setting off the familiar cocktail of hormones we all know and love today (mainly but not only estrogen, progesterone, FSH and LH) while our menfolk contended with a steady rise in testosterone which made them grow hair in equally odd places, made their voices lower while doing that hilarious up and down thing and caused a lot of confusing dreams where they woke up a bit sticky. And we all had that urge to snog other class mates and masturbate furiously without really understanding why.
So the hormones in men’s bodies are different to ours but as I said before, just as important.
Androgens are sex hormones produced primarily by a male’s testes, but are also produced in small amounts by the female’s ovaries and the adrenal gland, an organ found in both sexes. Androgens among other things, help trigger the development of the testes and penis in the male fetus. They jump start the process of puberty and influence the development of facial, body and pubic hair, deepening of the voice, and muscle development, the male secondary sex characteristics. They are pretty important for both of us.
After puberty, androgens, specifically testosterone, play a role in the regulation of the sex drive. Large deficiencies of testosterone may cause a drop in sexual desire, and excessive testosterone may heighten sexual interest in both sexes. Yes, we women have testosterone which can lead to syndromes like PCOS. It’s also thought to regulate bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm.
All very interesting. But actually I’m not going to focus on men’s health. I’m going to focus on what it produces and that is Sperm.
Here is the male sex organ in all it’s glory. With labels.
Men aren’t born with their sperm like we are with our eggs. No, they develop the ability to make it during puberty. Sperm is actually something awesome – if you think of men’s testicles as a highly effective, military training camp, you’ll start to understand how awesome spaff is.
Spermatozoa is made in the seminiferous tubules in our men’s balls. It’s like a Spartan regime in there. Here is a diagram of the ball and of a sperm just to give men credit for doing some complicated stuff in their balls.
It takes about 3 months (roughly) to make new sperm. The hypothalmus (it works just as hard for men) monitors blood testosterone levels and when it feels levels have dropped, it starts drip feeding GnRH (the similar gonadotropin releasing hormone which we have released before ovulation) to the pituitary gland. This in turn fires up LH and FSH levels which tells the testes to start training more sperm. Now.
Every sperm starts off as a germ and divides through meiosis to develop into a spermatid or baby sperm. It is given no time to enjoy its childhood. No, once it has been nourished and has grown a tail, it goes straight to training camp.
Here, in a epididymis it learns to swim and is stored until it’s ready for its final death or glory mission – to be ejaculated out of the body and (hopefully) to fertilize an egg.
Connected to the urethra (yup, the semen comes out where the pee comes out). When ejaculation occurs, sperm is forcefully expelled from the epididymis into the ductus deferens and up into the pelvic cavity, over the ureter to the prostate behind the bladder and passes through the prostate emptying into the urethra. When ejaculation occurs, rhythmic muscle movements of peristalsis propel the sperm forward out of the penis and then to glory….
Ok, I’ll drop the Spartan analogies now.
If your fella wants some information Don’t Cook your Balls is an awesome website which I have linked to. Worth a look for them. It’s worth noting that if these mature sperm aren’t used in 3 weeks they die and are absorbed into the body.
Each sperm contains threads of unique DNA. This blew my mind from the above website:
“Sperm cells are sophisticated packages for delivering DNA to the egg to create a new genetically unique person. As awesome of a specimen as you are, Mother Nature does not simply pass along an exact duplicate of your genes on to your offspring. Instead, your DNA is rearranged into millions of unique combinations, so that each sperm cell carries a slight (and hopefully improved) variation of you.” – http://www.don’tcookyourballs.com
What can go wrong with Sperm?
First of all, sperm don’t just exist. They actually live in semen.
That’s the sticky stuff. Secreted by the gonads and the semenal vesticle, seminal fluid contains several components besides spermatozoa: proteolytic and other enzymes as well as fructose are elements of seminal fluid which promote the survival of spermatozoa, and provide a medium through which they can move or “swim”.
Fun fact – It also apparently makes a good invisible ink. When the British Secret Intelligence service discovered that Semen worked as invisible ink allegedly Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming (SUCH a suitable name) claimed that “Every man is his own stylo”.
There are different factors which are looked at when a man’s semen is tested:
- Sperm count
- Ability of sperm to swim (motility)
- Velocity or forward progression of the sperm
- Size and shape of the sperm (morphology)
- Total semen volume
- The liquefaction of the semen (the ability to go from normal gel-like state at ejaculation to a liquid state)
According to Resolve perfect sperm will be made up of the following:
Volume: 2 5 milliliters is a normal volume. A very low volume indicates that the seminal vesicles may not be making enough fluid or that these ducts may be blocked. It may also indicate a problem with the prostate gland.
Sperm Count: 40 million to 300 million is the normal range for the number of sperm per milliliter. Counts below 10 million are considered poor; counts of 20 million or more may be fine if motility and morphology are normal.
Motility: The number of active cells as a percentage of the total number of cells (rated from 0-100%, at least 50% should be active and the quality of the movement of the sperm (rated from 0-4. A score of 2 or more is satisfactory.)
Morphology: At least 30% of cells should be of normal shape according to the WHO (world health organization). The Kruger Morphology Test examines the shape and size of the sperm head. Normal results are when 14% or more of the sperm have normal shaped heads. Men with less than 4% of normal shaped sperm may have a significant infertility problem.
Liquefaction: Normal semen which is liquid at ejaculation immediately coagulates into a pearly gel that liquefies within 20 minutes. Failure to coagulate and then liquefy may indicate a problem with the seminal vesicles, as would increased thickness or the presence of white blood cells.
I have noticed that many men are nervous about having their semen analysed. It does require them to wank into a cup and then deliver it to an office. It’s worth reminding men when you’re going in for a HyCoSe or a smear that making love to a cup is actually a relatively quick and easy thing to do.
If you’re worried about your partners sperm before you have it tested, I highly recommend putting him onto the very quick and easy test on Don’t Cook your Balls here. It’s pretty fun and quite easy to do.
What if his sperm count is low?
Semen is a touchy (ha ha) subject for many men. I can count the men who egotistically have said to friends, ‘my sperm is so strong it’ll get you pregnant in a month’ or who high five each other when it turns out they got their partner pregnant quickly into double figures – even mildly mannered, non egoists seem to think that a high sperm count makes them more of a man. This is of course bollocks. Literally. Coming from a partnership where my partner has amazing sperm which has taken us over 17 months to conceive, there are more factors than their semen and it’s time men understand this.
Having a low sperm count doesn’t make them any less of a man. And it’s not the end of the world.
The NHS website recommends the following for low sperm count:
- having sex every two or three days
- moderating your alcohol consumption and stopping smoking
- staying in good shape, exercising regularly and having a healthy, balanced diet
You can also look at taking a supplement, eating more healthily and of course, if you need to go into IUI and IVF where they will get the best, most amazing sperm out of the millions available and inject it directly into the egg.