What Is Sperm?

With infertility being a common concern amongst millennials, it's important to revisit the basics of reproductive biology. Learn more about sperm here.

Infertility issues affect 11% of women and 9% of men. As infertility rates continue to rise, many people are interested in findings ways to protect their fertility.

Sperm doesn’t always get enough credit for fertility, and many men don't even completely understand it. What is sperm exactly? Why is it so important, and how do we protect it for future fertility?

Read on to answer all of your burning questions about sperm.

The Story of Sperm

Men produce sex hormones like testosterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and sex hormone-binding hormone. These hormones influence the process of sperm production, called spermatogenesis.

Mature male testicles constantly produce sperm and the nutrition fluid that they swim in and get nutrition from. Collectively, this is semen.

A semen sample (or ejaculate) typically contains 39 million to 928 million sperm cells. The number of sperm in the ejaculate is called the sperm count.

What Is Sperm Exactly?

Sperm is the male reproductive cell (gamete). This sex cell carries half of all the genetic material needed to grow another human. Sperm must fertilize an egg, which contains the other half of the genetic material to form an embryo.

Male Infertility

While a healthy male body often contains an abundance of sperm during child-bearing years, things do not always work as planned. Some men make low quantities of sperm and a small percentage make none at all.


Male infertility may happen for many reasons, including:

  • An injury to the penis or testicles
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Excess consumption of alcohol or recreational substances
  • Smoking
  • Radiation exposure
  • Exposer to environmental toxins
  • Cancer or chemotherapy
  • Genetic or chromosomal diseases
  • Diabetes

As people get older, the risk of infertility rises. The quality of sperm may also decrease with age.

Sperm Production and Protection

You may be able to support sperm quality and production with some healthy lifestyle habits, including:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet
  • Exercise
  • Refrain from smoking
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption
  • Avoid recreational substances
  • Wear a mask in environments with hazardous chemicals
  • Treat underlying medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure