Prostate Role in Reproduction
Human prostate gland is one of the vital reproductive organs that is required for the maintenance of optimal reproductive and sexual activities. Anatomically, the gland is located in front of the rectum (slightly below the urinary bladder). The prostate gland is connected via ducts to the urethra (prostatic urethra) for the effective release of secretion.
What is the Role of Prostate Gland in Reproduction?
The walnut sized gland (weighs 20 grams) plays a vital role in the reproduction process; here’s how:
- Normal functioning of prostate gland is required for erection as well as ejaculation.
- A fair part of the semen or male ejaculate (approximately 30%) is made up of prostatic fluid/ secretions.
- It is imperative to mention that prostatic fluid contains healthy nutrients and antioxidants that are required for the protection, vitality and nourishment of sperms in the female genital tract. For example, the hormones like spermine (secreted by prostate gland) are required for normal motility or movement of sperms in the ejaculate. Other nutrients that are present in the prostatic fluid include; zinc, albumin, citric acid and calcium.
- The prostatic fluid contains enzymes such as acid phosphatase and PSA (also referred to as prostatic specific antigen) that are required for the liquefaction of semen.
- The slightly alkaline pH of prostatic fluid helps in neutralizing the acidic pH of vagina (that can alter the life span and motility of sperms).
- A physiologically normal prostate gland secrete prostatic fluid continuously, but the rate of secretion increases significantly during sexual excitement phase.
- The secretions from prostate gland are milky and thin in consistency. The characteristic odor and color of male ejaculate is primarily due to prostatic fluid.
According to a new study reported in the peer reviewed journal Bio Trace Element Research (1), investigators suggested that exposure to heavy metals can greatly increase the risk of male infertility in healthy subjects. The research team provided statistical evidence to support the assumption that high seminal plasma concentration of heavy metals (such as arsenic, selenium, copper, manganese and lead) is associated with abnormal sperm motility and morphology.
Prostate Conditions Can Influence the Normal Reproduction Process
Certain prostate disorders can significantly alter the normal reproduction process and may interfere with the fertility. These include:
- Prostatitis: Prostatitis (sophisticated term for inflammation of prostate gland) is a medical condition that is more common in young males (men under 40 years of age). Most cases of prostatitis are bacterial in origin and may cause pain, tenderness, fever and difficulty in achieving or maintaining erection. Antibiotic and medical management is fairly effective in most cases. Study published in Andrologia (3) suggested that chronic prostatitis greatly affects the vitality and health of sperms by increasing the risk of oxidative stress via reactive oxygen species and other products of inflammation.
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: Also referred to as BPH is marked by non-cancerous growth of prostate tissue that may press upon the urethra and interferes with normal urinary as well as sexual functions. The prevalence of BPH is 80% in males over the age of 80 years, as reported by American Foundation for Urologic Disease. Various research studies have suggested a positive association of sexual dysfunction and fertility issues with poorly managed BPH.
- Malignancy of Prostate: Cancer of prostate gland is one of the three most frequently reported malignancies in the United States and second most common cause of cancer related deaths. Most cases of prostate cancer are managed by surgical resection that may significantly alter the normal reproductive and sexual activities. Additionally, palliative and other therapies (such as radiation therapy) can also affect the quality and vitality of sperms.
Extensive analysis reported in International Journal of Andrology (6) suggested that all three listed disorders of prostate gland (BPH, malignancy of prostate and prostatitis) can induce the production of anti-spermin antibodies (also known as ASA), which can affect the fertility and reproductive functions.
To conclude, a functional prostate gland is vital to normal reproductive functions. It is highly recommended to see a primary care provider at periodic intervals for the regular assessment of prostate health. Research data indicates that early identification of prostate diseases can help in preserving fertility and other reproductive disorders.
- Li, P., Zhong, Y., Jiang, X., Wang, C., Zuo, Z., & Sha, A. (2012). Seminal plasma metals concentration with respect to semen quality. Biological trace element research, 148(1), 1-6.
- Smith, J. R., & Stanfield, G. M. (2012, July). A seminal fluid protease activates sperm motility in C. elegans males. In Worm (Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 151). Landes Bioscience.
- Potts, J. M., & Pasqualotto, F. F. (2003). Seminal oxidative stress in patients with chronic prostatitis. Andrologia, 35(5), 304-308.
- Singh, D. K., Hersey, K., Perlis, N., Crook, J., Jarvi, K., & Fleshner, N. (2012). The effect of radiation on semen quality and fertility in men treated with brachytherapy for early stage prostate cancer. The Journal of urology, 187(3), 987-989.
- Reichard, C., Sabanegh, E. S., Jones, J. S., & Fareed, K. (2013). Spermaturia after radical prostatectomy: is surgical preservation of fertility possible?. Case reports in urology, 2013.
- Hoover, P., & Naz, R. K. (2012). Do men with prostate abnormalities (prostatitis/benign prostatic hyperplasia/prostate cancer) develop immunity to spermatozoa or seminal plasma?. International journal of andrology, 35(4), 608-615.