A male reproductive tour

While you probably have an idea of how the male reproductive system works, you might not know about its finer details. We can’t guarantee that learning more about the male reproductive system will make your TTC journey go any faster, but who knows? Learning more can at least make the journey a little more interesting.

Testes make testosterone and sperm

The testes are oval-shaped organs that are protected by a skin sac called the scrotum. They’re made up of connective tissue, tubules, and ducts. At puberty, a man’s testes start making sperm, and will continue to do so for the rest of his life, although as men age there will be a slight decrease in the amount of sperm produced. Sperm is produced in tubules of the testes, and each sperm has a head containing the genetic information, a middle connecting piece, and a tail which is responsible for movement. All three parts need to function properly in order to maintain a healthy sperm.

At orgasm, sperm leaves the testes through a pair of ducts called the vas deferens. From the vas deferens, it is combined with other fluids from the seminal vesicle and prostate and propelled by the ejaculatory duct. It is eventually expelled out of the urethra.

Accessory glands provide sperm with important fluids

A few glands work together to make the fluid that travels with sperm outside the body and to the cervix.

  • The prostate, which secretes fluids that help sperm movement.
  • The seminal vesicles, a pair of glands that make the fluid that provides energy for the sperm, proteins that help it coagulate after ejaculation, and fluids that make sperm mobile and strong.
  • The Cowper’s glands, or bulbourethral glands. These release a kind of fluid that helps make urine residue and fluid from the vagina less acidic; the fluid also helps lubricate the tip of the penis.

Together, the fluid from these glands makes up seminal fluid, which describes the mix of sperm cells and all the above fluids from various glands. Secretions from the seminal vesicles make up almost 60% of seminal fluid.

Penis helps sperm leave the body

The penis, located in front of the scrotum, is made up of three columns of erectile tissue. When a man is aroused, two of those columns fill with blood to make the penis erect, and one of the columns stays spongy to protect the urethra. At orgasm, the semen exits the body, and following orgasm, there’s a period of time where it’s impossible for a man to get another erection, known as the refractory period. Once ejaculated, sperm can live up to 5 days outside of the body.

The male reproductive system is made up of multiple organs that work together to help sperm exit the body and reach the egg. Sometimes things don’t work perfectly, but when they do, voila: conception.

  • “Male reproductive system.” SEER. Training Modules from US National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Apr 25 2012. Web.
  • Healthline Editorial Team. “Male reproductive organs.” Healthline. Healthline Media, Mar 12 2015. Web.
  • Rachel Hoad-Robson and Mary Harding. “The male reproductive system.” Patient.info. EMIS group, Sep 14 2015. Web.
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