Looking for the answers to, "what is semen?" Read on for all the answers you need to all the semen-related questions you may have.
Semen, ejaculate spermatozoa - there are plenty of words to describe it, but you may be surprised by how many people do not know what semen actually is.
Semen health is crucial to fertility, and there are many simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve its quality. By learning the basics of semen, you can take charge of your reproductive health.
Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to answer your questions and highlight some key facts.
So let's start - what is semen?
What is Semen?
Simply put, semen is the fluid in male reproductive organs that contains the reproductive cells we commonly refer to as sperm.
The words semen and sperm are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Semen is, in fact, the fluid that keeps sperm alive, helping it to reach the egg once it has left the penis through ejaculation.
Semen, therefore, has a very important role to play in reproduction and has some surprising characteristics.
What is Semen Composed of?
Several elements in semen are combined to create the viscous fluid released at ejaculation.
The sperm that are kept alive by semen comprise only 5-10% of its structure. Sperm cells are not visible to the naked eye as they are only 0.05 millimeters long. They have a head that stores the DNA and a tail that helps them to move.
The largest component of semen is water, which makes up to 80% of the plasma fluid produced by the seminal gland. It is white or greyish in color due to a large amount of protein.
Protein is not the only nutrient in semen. There are several surprising vitamins and nutrients to be found in the milky fluid.
What Nutrients are in Semen?
Within the plasma fluid component of semen are many vitamins and nutrients:
- citric acid
- vitamin B12
- uric acid
- lactic acid
These vitamins support healthy sperm, and the levels of nutrients can vary depending on your lifestyle. Alcohol intake, diet, smoking, and external pollutants can all affect the levels of these nutrients and overall semen health.
A zinc deficiency can affect the quality of your sperm. Lean meats, poultry eggs, seafood, and beans are all great sources of zinc. To find out more about lifestyle choices and their impact on your fertility, take a look at our comprehensive male fertility guide.
What are the Health Benefits of Semen?
With such a wide variety of nutrients, it is often claimed that semen has health benefits for the skin and even mental health.
Studies on the benefits of semen have been small and are not accepted as scientific facts. Furthermore, whilst the nutrients in semen are numerous, the levels of these nutrients are very low. It is therefore important not to exaggerate the possible health benefits of semen.
It has been claimed that there are natural antidepressant properties to semen due to the serotonin and endorphins in its make-up.
Semen has even been heralded as a miracle worker for glowing skin. This is due to the small levels of protein, zinc, magnesium, and urea contained in semen which have all been proven to promote healthy skin. Although semen is unlikely to cause your skin any harm (unless you are allergic), it probably won’t benefit your skin.
Some women have experienced allergic reactions to semen - however, this is considered very rare. Symptoms identified include itching, swelling, and redness when coming into contact with semen.
What is Considered ‘Normal’ Semen?
Healthy semen can come in a variety of colors, smells, and even tastes. It’s important to know what you should expect so you can look out for any abnormalities.
The color of semen is often an off-white or greyish color. It can also have a yellowish tinge which is considered normal. If your semen is slightly red or brown in color, this could indicate hematospermia. Whilst this is often benign, it’s still important to seek medical attention.
The smell of semen can also vary. It is often claimed to bear a resemblance to cleaning products or chlorine. This is due to the alkaline nature of semen which usually ranges from PH7 to PH8 on the PH scale. If you notice your semen has a strong smell, this could be a sign of an infection, and you should seek medical attention.
People have reported many different tastes in semen. It can taste sweet due to the high fructose content. If your semen smells or tastes strong, it may be due to environmental or dietary factors.
What is a Good Sperm Count in Semen?
There is a massive variation between sperm counts from person to person. But the World Health Organization promotes the following statistics as a good indicator that yours is healthy and functioning:
- The semen contains at least 40 million sperm in each ejaculate
- At least 75% of sperm are alive, with 30% of these being of normal shape and form
- At least 25% of sperm should swim with a rapid forward movement
- At least 50% of sperm should swim with a general forward movement
To find out more about your sperm count, you can conduct a fertility report.
How is Semen Made?
Semen is made in various parts of the male reproductive organs:
- Vas Deferens
The process starts in seminiferous tubules located in the testicles. Here, germ cells mix with hormones, dividing and multiplying until they look like tadpoles.
The tadpoles travel to the epididymis and stay here for five weeks to complete their development.
During ejaculation, the vas deferens carries the sperm cells where the seminal fluid has released that combine with the sperm to create semen. The fluid is created by three glands:
- bulbourethral glands
- prostate gland
- seminal vesicles
The semen then embarks on its journey to the egg to fertilize it.
How is Semen Released?
Semen is released through sexual arousal, which fills the penis with blood and promotes muscle contractions. This is where all the process of making the semen and sperm culminates together.
Mature sperm travel from the epididymis to the vas deferens and are propelled forward by muscle contractions. When the sperm reach the ampulla near the prostate gland, secretions from the seminal vesicle combine the sperm with seminal fluid.
After this, the seminal fluid moves forward through the ejaculatory ducts. As it passes the prostate gland, a milky fluid is combined to make semen.
Finally, the semen is released from the penis through the urethra by ejaculation.
Once released, healthy sperm can reach the egg in 45 minutes if swimming in a straight line. Sperm that are slower can take up to 12 hours.
From the 40 million sperm released in one ejaculation, only around 10 make it all the way to the egg, and ultimately only one sperm will fertilize the egg. The others die or get lost on the way.
Pre-ejaculate and Semen - What’s the Difference?
Pre-ejaculate, or pre-seminal fluid, as it is also known, is released from the penis during sexual arousal, like semen. However, it has some distinct differences from semen.
It is clear in appearance and has a different chemical make-up from that of semen. Low levels of sperm exist in pre-ejaculate, almost none in fact. It is very unlikely that pregnancy can occur - but not impossible.
The role of ejaculate is to neutralize any acidic PH levels in the urethra that is leftover from urine. This is an important job as it creates a more hospitable environment for the semen, making it more likely to survive its journey to the vagina.
As well as this, the pre-ejaculate also acts as a natural lubricant for sexual intercourse.
How is Semen Viewed in Different Cultures
Semen has an interesting and diverse history, and many popular held beliefs in the past sound strange to us now. Other cultures have revered semen for hundreds of years and highlight its importance to us.
In Ancient Greece, Aristotle believed that semen began its life as blood. He posited that the body heated the blood to convert it to semen. Pythagoras believed that semen was made from droplets of brain matter!
The Greeks were not the only ancient culture to speculate what semen was made from. In ancient eastern cultures, it was thought that gemstones were made from the semen of the gods.
How Long Does it Take to Produce Semen?
The complex process of making semen in your body is happening all the time.
You may be surprised to hear that you only ejaculate around 2-5ml of semen at a time - this equates to a single teaspoon. However, this tiny amount could contain anything between 40 to 250 million sperm!
When you practice abstinence, is it the sperm, not the semen, that increases in volume. Younger men produce more sperm per ejaculation and the most active period in a man’s sperm production is their mid-twenties or early 30s.
The male body never actually stops producing semen, but the production process starts to slow down after its most active period.
After the age of 50, the quality of the sperm can decrease dramatically. It is also less mobile and, therefore, less likely to find its way to the egg. This is why many people choose to store their sperm at a younger age.
How Long Can Semen Live?
Within the habitable conditions of the vagina, semen can last up to 5 days. This is because the vagina has enzymes in the mucus, which create the perfect conditions for sperm to thrive and find their way through the fallopian tubes to the egg.
Once the semen has left the male body, it is likely to last only a few minutes on the skin, on a surface, or in water. Once the semen has dried, it is more than likely dead. The quality of your semen can affect the health of the sperm and its lifetime after ejaculation.
Can Semen be Stored?
Healthy semen can be frozen and stored at a very low temperature in freezers. This process stops the biological clock of the sperm. It can be preserved in this way in storage for up to ten years.
Sperm storage is becoming an increasingly popular choice for younger men, and you can find out more about it here.
Why is Semen Important?
Everyone knows sperm is important, but now you may appreciate the vital role semen plays in fertility. Semen is important because it helps to carry the sperm to the vagina. Semen also feeds the sperm. Essential nutrients and vitamins within the semen keep the sperm functioning and healthy.
Healthy semen keeps the sperm alive longer by providing a comfortable place for it to live.
Time to Measure Your Semen?
Now we've answered the question - what is semen?
You are aware of the direct links to the health of your semen and your fertility and may want to find out information about your semen and sperm. With a fertility report, you can evaluate your sperm count, sperm concentration, sperm volume, and sperm motility.
You simply need to produce a semen sample in the comfort of your own home and send it off to the lab.
Click here to take control of your fertility.
This information on the site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Dadi Inc. makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained herein, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this web site or article with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.
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