All the while, we have been talking about various problems that can affect the fertility in men. Let’s get down to the basics and know a little about the male reproductive system, what constitutes the male reproductive system and how does it function. We are sure that you would have come across this topic in your school and many teachers wouldn’t have explained it the way it should be (considering the fact that the mindset of the then teachers and students was a lot different than those of today).
Parts of male reproductive system
There are few parts of the male reproductive system inside and outside the pelvis unlike women. Women have most of their reproductive parts located inside their pelvis region. There is a very good reason why some parts are hung outside the body, we will learn why as we get into the subject.
- The testicles (the small egg like organs present in a sack called scrotum that hangs in between the legs of a man)
- The penis (a boneless organ, made up of spongy tissues that can expand in size unlike any other parts of the body). Penis mainly has two parts – the glans or head and the shaft. When a man is aroused, more blood is pumped into the penis and the penis becomes bigger, stronger and erect to facilitate penetration.
- The duct system – made up of epididymis and the vas deferens (here is where the sperms are grown and get matured and ready to reproduce)
- The accessory glands include the prostate gland and seminal vesicles.
When a boy is born, the system is not ready to reproduce until he reaches the age of ‘puberty’ which generally starts at the age of 12. This is the age when the hormonal changes happen in his body that affect the development of testicles, bring in voice changes, muscular changes and development/growth of hair in the private regions and on the face.
How is sperm produced once a boy ‘matures’?
Inside the testicles, there is a network of tiny tubes called the ‘seminiferous tubules’. The seminiferous tubules contain ‘germ cells’. These germ cells when combined with ‘testosterone’ (THE most important male hormone), develop into sperm cells. They are just like the baby version of sperm cells with a tiny head and a tail.
The tail pushes the sperms into ‘epididymis’ where they stay for few weeks develop into fully grown sperms and move to the vas deferens. When the penis is stimulated in anyway and the person reaches climax (also called orgasm), the sperm is pushed out through the connected tubes outside the penis. The prostate gland produces a liquid called ‘seminal fluids’ that forms maximum contents in the ejaculate. The seminal fluids carry the sperms through the vagina and it becomes a surviving and travelling medium for the sperm cells upon entering the female reproductive system. Usually, there can be 500 – 750 million sperms in a single ejaculate.
What happens when the semen is inside a woman’s body?
The sperms swim (they actually roll asymmetrically as per recent research findings) through the seminal fluids to reach the egg present inside the fallopian tube. When the egg is found, one among the millions of sperms will be able to fuse with it and a zygote is formed (fertilization). An egg is present only for a period of 24 hours and typically, it is released in the middle of the menstrual cycle. (on 14th day for a woman with a menstrual cycle of 28 days).
In case when the egg is not yet released or gone after the 24 hours waiting period, pregnancy cannot be achieved. Now, you may think that if you don’t have sex in the middle of menstrual cycle, you should be good, right? don’t hurry yet. Typically, sperms can live for a period of 5 days inside a woman’s body. If an egg is released during their presence, then, any one sperm will be able to join the egg and fertilize it.
When is it safe to have sex without condom and still not get pregnant?
Let’s consider a woman with a menstrual cycle of 28 days. The first day starts from the day her periods start. Periods end typically after 5 days. Egg is released (ovulation occurs) usually around 14th day. Keeping in mind the life span of sperms is 5 days, you will have a very short window of 3 to 4 days, from 6th to 8th or 9th day in the menstrual cycle. However, this is a risky period because there are situations when the sperm lives longer than 5 days.
After 15th day, once the egg is disintegrated/broken down, it is relatively safer to have sex without any protection, till the start of next cycle. One must note that, the chances of getting a woman pregnant significantly go down but do not become 0. In case, if the egg is released late for any reason, there are chances that the woman can get pregnant.
Also, having sex without any protection doesn’t stop from communicating sexually transmitted infections.
What are the typical problems men can have with their reproductive organs?
- Erectile dysfunction – When a man is not able to achieve erection of his penis even after stimulation.
- Premature Ejaculation – Unable to hold the ejaculation for more than 2 minutes after penetration.
- Ejaculatory Dysfunction – Problems with having ejaculation
- Azoospermia – absence of sperms in the semen
- Oligozoospermia – having less number of sperms in the semen
- Teratozoospermia – Abnormal shape of sperms leading to infertility