During intercourse, millions of sperm are released within the semen, but only about two million make it to the cervix due to both semen flow back (the loss of excess sperm after intercourse) and the breaking down of many of the sperm by the acidic juices of the vagina. Resistance, as well as speed, make for the most powerful sperm which will make it to the end of the race. After a journey of attrition through the uterus, only about one thousand sperm make it to the fallopian tube and barely two hundred actually reach the egg. While it only takes one sperm to fertilise the egg, these extra couple of hundred are vital in secreting enzymes to break down the egg’s defensive barriers (corona radiata and zona pellucida) for the one successful sperm to make it through to fertilise it. Only the nucleus of the sperm penetrates the egg, while the tail and membrane get dissolved. A signal is then released which prevents other sperm from trying to enter the egg. If you take into account how many millions of sperm are lost between ejaculation into the vagina and degradation of the zona pellucida, it is clear why a low sperm count can cause male infertility.
Therefore, in order to fertilise an egg successfully, sperm health needs to be in tip-top shape. To improve sperm quality, quantity and morphology, lifestyle changes are often suggested as adequate fertility treatment, provided there is not a much larger underlying issue of infertility. These lifestyle changes may include measures such as:
- A regular sleeping pattern with enough hours of sleep
- Maintaining a healthy, nutrient-rich diet
- Regularly participating in moderate exercise
- Taking fertility supplements or a pre-natal
- Cutting out toxins such as cigarettes, certain toiletries and haircare products and lowering your alcohol consumption
- Practising relaxation techniques to reduce stress
Applying these suggestions to your daily routine may not only help with your conception success but will also improve the foetal and pregnancy outcomes of the embryo. If the nucleus that has entered the egg is not in the healthiest condition, pregnancy and foetal difficulties may occur.