The Anatomy of the Ejaculate

ejaculate composition

Here’s a million-dollar question: From whence does the ejaculate come? The word “semen” is actually Latin, derived from “cemani” meaning “juice.” Ok, so that’s clear, but now you’re thinking, “Great, Doc, but where does the juice actually come from?” Allow me to explain.

A Complex Sauce

Fluids from several different body organs mix and mingle before being expelled as ejaculate. The much-maligned prostate, a reliable cause of urination issues in older men, is actually important for normal, fertile semen. It secretes a clear, acidic fluid in small amounts (10% of semen volume) that comprises the first part of the ejaculate. Sperm, whose reputation far exceeds their size, enter the fluid after being pumped all the way from the scrotum (the epididymis to be exact) through the muscular vas deferens and into the ejaculatory ducts within the prostate, like a bullet being loaded in a chamber. The seminal vesicles  hold most (80%) of the sugar-rich seminal fluid. They also push the sperm pellet into the urethra and, eventually, out into the world.

But it’s even more complex than that. Think of the ejaculate as the opposite of epoxy glue: instead of two liquids mixing to become a solid, semen is first delivered as a sticky semi-solid and, after mixing, liquefies over time. It is only after semen becomes fluid that that sperm are released to go forth and conquer.

When Sex Kills

Geez, why all the anatomical muss and fuss just to ejaculate? Because, in many species, males must get out of Dodge as soon as their work is done since females immediately turn predatory on their sexual partners. They don’t call them “praying mantises” and “black widow spiders” for nothing. When sex is life threatening, evolution has its way of getting that sperm dollop to stick where it’s planted inside the female before all hell breaks loose.

Good for Men

Observing changes in the ejaculate also helps us take care of men. A low ejaculate volume is characteristic of ejaculatory duct obstruction or absence of the vas deferens. A dry ejaculate often indicates retrograde ejaculation. Blood in the ejaculate, termed hematospermia, may be alarming, but is usually benign. And don’t worry, guys, nobody can tell that you had a vasectomy as it causes no detectable change to the ejaculate.

At the same time, not all changes to the ejaculate require a doctor’s visit. Small variations in ejaculate quality — such as color, smell, and texture — are common and not alarming. These may be attributed to diet, ejaculatory frequency, alcohol consumption and hydration and hormonal status. However, a consistent change in semen quality such as persistent dark color, bad odor or lower volume may be reason for concern and care-seeking behavior.

A healthy lifestyle is a good way to improve your odds of keeping sperm and semen healthy. Exercising, eating a balanced diet, limiting consumption of drugs and alcohol and managing stress all have value. You may also want to keep the genitals from overheating by staying out of saunas and hot baths, keeping laptops off your lap, storing your phone on your backside and wearing boxers instead of those sexier, tight briefs for underwear.

How’s that for mixing fun, fertility and science? Pretty natural thing to do, according to the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said: “Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.”

For any concerns about your semen, ejaculate or fertility, please feel free to contact…..

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