Okay, guys, we know how hard is this trying to conceive “thing”, and we know there’s a lot of confusion around your role in the fertility journey. A lot of time is spent educating women on their reproductive health, but not as much is spent on men. This is unfortunate because there’s a lot to know about male fertility. Knowledge is power, and when you see your doctor, that knowledge can help you ask the right questions about starting your family. So to help ensure you’re an equal part of the conversation, we’re here to lay out some important terms relating to male fertility so you know how to talk to your doctor.
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You’re most likely to hear terms related to two key areas of your fertility: your sperm, and your hormones. Below we’ve detailed the most common terms associated with both:
There are three important terms to remember when discussing the quality of your sperm, and each has an effect on fertility:
- Sperm count: This measures how many sperm are present per unit of semen. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, a normal sperm count has a concentration of about 15 million sperm per milliliter.
- Sperm motility: Sperm need to be able to reach and fertilize the egg in order to conceive. The ability of sperm to move is called sperm motility. Again according to the WHO, normal sperm motility is when 32% of sperm in a sample are able to move progressively. Poor sperm motility – less than 25% of sperm moving – is called asthenospermia.
- Sperm morphology: The normal form of healthy sperm is an oval head and a long tail. The WHO guidelines say that healthy semen contains at least 4% normal sperm morphology.
As in women, hormones play an important role in regulating a man’s reproductive system. The most important hormones are:
- Testosterone: This hormone is responsible for many of the physical qualities that are considered “masculine” – facial and body hair, muscle bulk, a deeper voice, and so on. It is produced in the testicles, along with the corresponding production of sperm.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH): This hormone is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the production of testosterone.
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): This hormone also produced in the pituitary gland and triggers spermatogenesis, the production of sperm from stem cells in the testicles. Without FSH, these precursor cells cannot mature.
These hormones rise and fall in a cycle. When levels of testosterone fall, the pituitary gland releases both LH and FSH. This causes the testicles to produce both sperm and more testosterone until the levels of that hormone rise high enough to signal the pituitary gland to stop. Any imbalance in these hormones can throw off production of sperm and reduce a fertility in males.
These are just some of the more important terms you should know when you are trying to conceive, but when it comes to family planning, these terms are a literal tip of the baby making iceberg, as there’s lots of information out there you can learn and use to help your partner and yourself during your journey. If you want more tips to help you in trying to conceive, or information about improving fertility, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our newsletter below.