Introductions • Hey there fellow sperm! Yes that’s right, you are a sperm. We are the male gamete and contain 23 chromosomes. You’re probably pretty confused right about now and I hope to clear everything up for you. I am going to explain an average life for a sperm like you and me and also tell you what happens every once in a while to a very lucky sperm.
How did we get here? • A little while ago, we got produced in these tiny coiled tubes called the seminiferous tubules. They look a little like this.
Where are we? • There are hundreds of seminiferous tubules in the testicles. That is where we are right now. The testicles themselves produce testosterone and androgens. They are glands that are oval-shaped. They look like this.
Epididymis • After we are produced, we are sent to a structure called the epididymis which is attached to the back of the testicles. We are sent here to fully mature until the next ejaculation. I’ll explain to you what that is a little later. This is what the epididymis looks like.
Vas Deferens • Our next stop will be these tubes that are connected to the epididymis. These tubes are called the Vas Deferens and they are 14-16 inches long. They eventually will lead us to the urethra. They look like this.
Seminal Vesicle • While we are in the Vas Deferens, we will be nourished by fructose and amino acids from the seminal vesicle. Semen is made of of us and seminal fluid. The seminal vesicle contributes 70% of seminal fluid to us. Two other parts of the male reproductive system also add some of this fluid to us. I will talk about them next. This is what the seminal vesicle looks like.
Prostate Gland • The Prostate Gland gives us 25% seminal fluid. It also produces a hormone that triggers uterine contractions which will eventually help us swim towards the egg. You’re probably wondering what this egg is, and I’m going to tell you a little later. This is what the prostate gland looks like.
Cowper’s Gland • Now we are almost ready to become semen, but we’re missing 5% of seminal fluid. We can get this from the Cowper’s Gland. It is also called the bulbourthral gland. Some of us sperm are a part of a clear lubricant during a man’s erection. This can go directly into a female even if the man doesn’t ejaculate. This is what the Cowper’s gland looks like.
Now what? • So we are now semen. Now what? I told you that the Vas Deferens will lead us to the urethra eventually and it is now time for that. The urethra is a passageway where we leave the penis. The penis is the male reproductive organ. It is filled with spongy tissue and blood vessels. We are almost ready to be ejaculated.
Erection and ejaculation • The penis needs to have an erection is order for us to be ejaculated. An erection is when the penis fills up with blood and becomes hard. Arteries dilate and compress so that blood can’t get out. Once the penis has an erection, we are ready to be ejaculated. We leave through the urethra in the penis through smooth muscle contractions. Don’t worry about getting lonely.We’ll be with half a billion other sperm!
Are we done? • Well now that we have left the penis, you might think that we are done with our lives. Well you are very wrong. We are going into a special place called the vagina.
Eggs • The female anatomy has some similarities and differences with the male anatomy. Both males and females have gametes. We are the male gamete and eggs are the female gamete. Eggs also have 23 chromosomes. They are very different from sperm though. Females are born with all of their eggs, but only about 400 of them are released. Males release about half a billion sperm with only one ejaculation!
Ovary • The ovary produces and releases eggs. The ovary is pretty much the equivalent to the testicles for us. This is what it looks like.
Ovulation • Eggs produced in the ovaries will be released on a monthly basis. This is called ovulation. Ovulation occurs because of hormones.
Fallopian tubes and the fembria • Just like males, women also have fallopian tubes. During ovulation, the egg is swept into the fallopian tube. In the female, this tube connects the ovary to the uterus. This is important to us because this is the pathway we will take to get to the egg and fertilize it. This tube and the ovaries are connected by the fembria.
Vagina • We can’t fertilize the egg until we travel through the whole vagina, which is called the birth canal. It is about 3 to 5 inches long. That might seem small, but we move very very slowly through it. The vagina is the site of where intercourse happens and where a baby will be delivered.
Cervix • Our next destination is the cervix. This comes after we travel through the vagina. The cervix is T-shaped. It is the organ that dilates to allow the birthing process. During this process, it will dilate to 10 cm to allow room for...well, us eventually! It looks a little like this.
Uterus • The cervix is the opening for the uterus. The uterus houses the fetus. If you become a fetus, you will grow and develop here. This is what the uterus looks like.
Endometrium • The endometrium is the thick mucous tissue inner lining of the uterus. If conception happens, then the endometrium will develop into the placenta. As you can see, the endometrium is the border around the uterus.
Fertilization • So basically our main goal is to fertilize an egg. I mentioned to you earlier that we will fertilize the egg once we take the pathway through the fallopian tubes. Once we are in there, only one sperm can fertilize the egg. This is why I said in the beginning that you have to be a very lucky sperm to be the one that fertilizes it. Once the egg is fertilized by one of us, it is called a zygote. But don’t get your hopes up. It is very unlikely that one of us will be the one to make the zygote.
Menstrual cycle • There is a possibility that none of us will fertilize the egg. If that is the case, then the endometrium will be shed. This process is known as menstruation. When a women is fertile, she goes through a cycle of physiological changes. This is called the menstrual cycle.
Health behaviors for men • I didn’t mean to crush your spirits. In a way, we are very lucky! We are both healthy sperm. That is because the male we come from has practiced healthy behaviors to keep us like this. He has probably gotten himself tested for STDs. Having untreated STDs can cause a male to be unable to produce healthy sperm. That is why it is important for a man to first try to prevent getting one and then if worse comes to worse, get it treated. Something else that could potentially produce unhealthy sperm is when a man wears tight underwear. This one isn’t has serious as untreated STDs, but it can still do damage. Having tight underwear causes lack of temperature regulation. The testicles produce healthier sperm with a cooler body temperature.
Health behaviors for women • Just like men, Women can also perform tactics to maintain reproductive health. SImilarly to men, women should also get tested for STDs and have yearly exams. Again, it is very important for her to get treated. Prolonged drug use is something that can be very damaging. It is something that will affect a women’s menstrual cycle.
Are you ready? • So I hope I’ve been helpful to you and hope you now at least have an idea of what’s going on. So enough talking. It’s finally time to start our journey. Next stop: epididymis!