What Can Semen Composition Tell You About Men’s Health?
Semen is a thick whitish fluid that is discharged from the penis during the process of ejaculation. The semen comprises of spermatozoa, mobile sperm cells and seminal fluid (a thin fluid that is rich in essential nutrients for sperm survival and is secreted by seminal vesicles). The seminal fluid enhances the fertility of spermatozoa and helps in the transportation of sperm cells.
Sperm cells production occurs within the testicles. Epididymis stores these cells along with very small amounts of this fluid i.e. below 10% of the total volume. A duct called Vas deferens transfers the sperm cells from urethra to the penis, and through penis, these cells are transported into the vagina during the act of sexual intercourse.
The transportation of sperm cells from the vas deferens is facilitated by mucous that is secreted from 3 primary glands (and collectively referred to as seminal fluid).
These glands are listed below:
- Cowper’s gland: 5% of the seminal fluid is contributed by the Cowper’s gland. The gland is responsible for the production of fluid released prior to the ejaculation. The fluid balances the acidic pH and facilitates the urethral lubrication as to make the sperm transportation more seamless and friction-free.
- Prostate gland: 15-30% of the seminal fluid is contributed by the prostate gland. It also contains certain enzymes that plays a major role in maintaining the fluidity (or liquification) of this fluid for almost 15-30 minutes followed by theejaculation. This assists in the slow release of sperms inside the female genital tract.
- Seminal glands: The remaining volume of the seminal fluid is contributed by this gland. Secretion from seminal glands is rich in prostaglandins which stimulates the vaginal contractions to ensure easy ascent of sperms into the vaginal canal. It also contains fructose which offers nourishment to the spermcells. The gland also releases clotting factors that causes the clumping of this fluid. The clumping makes it convenient to steady the sperms until ejaculation, before the liquefaction process kicks in.
Taste And Smell Of Semen
Semen smells like chlorine and has a mild sweet taste because of the presence of high fructose content in the semen.
Normal Semen Volume
During ejaculation, the volume this fluid released with the ejaculate may vary. On an average, the semen volume varies between 2.5 to 4.5 ml (or 3.4 ml.) The volume of this fluid is affected by the hydration status of the body as well as time elapsed between the previous ejaculations.
Brown Or Red Semen
Semen is usually whitish in color however if it is brown or red, it may indicate the presence of blood, a condition referred to as hematospermia. Usually it is not a serious condition as in most cases, the origin of blood in this fluid is usually benign. The contributing factors may be:
- Recent history of Prostate biopsy
- Other conditions (such as injuries, infections or lesions) associated with the genital tract of males
- Cancer (a rare cause)
Fortunately, hematospermia requires no special treatment but consulting the doctor nevertheless may help in ruling out other serious ailments.
Green Or Yellow Colored Semen
Semen with a definite green or yellow color may be a red flag for infection such as STI (Sexually transmitted infection) like gonorrhea. If upon diagnosis the doctor reveals that the cause of discoloration is gonorrheal infection, then he may prescribe necessary antibiotics for the treatment. Having foul smelling semen also indicates any presence of infection.
- Esteves, S. C. (2014). Clinical relevance of routine semen analysis and controversies surrounding the 2010 World Health Organization criteria for examination. International braz j urol, 40(4), 433-453.