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It Starts With The Sperm: Supporting Egg-Sperm Fusion

Meet the Expert: Dr. Darren Bryk, AKA the sperm whisperer, is an andrology/male infertility fellow at the University of Virginia. He medically reviewed each post in our three-part "It Starts With the Sperm" mini-series.

Part three-part in the mini series, “It Starts With The Sperm,” is all about the moment of conception—egg-sperm fusion, i.e. fertilization. So much leads up to this point, and so much important work is still to come. In news that will surprise absolutely no one, it’s the healthiest, strongest sperm that makes it to the finish line. Any issues relating to sperm count, shape or movement can make fertilization a challenge, if not outright impossible. That’s why ensuring sperm as a whole get top marks across all health parameters is so important.  Let’s break it down.

Understanding Potential Fertilization Issues

Fertilization is a complicated and critical part of a successful pregnancy. If just one thing goes sideways, a pregnancy will not occur. On the men’s side, healthy sperm is important. In the journey to fusion, sperm have to navigate three treacherous paths:

  • First, they must be capable of propelling themselves through the vaginal and cervical environment. They’re coated in a gel formed by semen that is designed to protect them from what is generally a pretty inhospitable place. The coated sperm with the most motility travel into the uterus and upward into the fallopian tubes. 
  • Sperm that survive the first leg of the journey and successfully reach the egg then face a second challenge. They have to break through a tough outer membrane known as the zona pellucida which protects the egg like a shell. In order to break through, sperm require key enzymes that allow them to both penetrate and fertilize the egg.
  • Once sperm has successfully made it into the egg, the zona pellucida fulfills its second job and becomes impermeable to penetration by other sperm.

There are endless obstacles and hurdles along the way, and for a pregnancy to occur, there must be enough healthy sperm to make it through. More healthy sperm means better odds, and part of that has to do with the fact that the egg is pretty picky

A fascinating study (1) published in 2020 confirms that mate choice continues well after getting busy, and it essentially boils down to rewarding the most compatible choice. That begins with the arduous and downright treacherous journey from the cervix to the fallopian tube in search of the egg. It’s estimated that of the hundreds of millions (2) of sperm that begin this trek, only 250 will make it to the homestretch. Of these final contenders, just 10% are likely capable of fertilization. From this group, the egg sends chemical signals to the most appealing sperm, which encourages them to swim harder, faster and more directly—and the best sperm wins.

But to be successful, the best sperm not only needs functional motility, appropriate morphology, and healthy DNA, it also requires the right enzymes for proper egg fusion. Roughly 1 man in 5 has infertility issues related to a hormone imbalance that means sperm is lacking in one health parameter or another.

Measuring Sperm Health

Clearly, an army of healthy sperm is the ideal scenario. And you can’t talk about healthy sperm without talking about the vital role key nutrients play (3) during their maturation process. Just like women, men’s bodies need specific vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support and drive their reproductive process. And by that, we’re talking about healthy sperm development. It’s measured in a few ways:

  • Sperm count. This describes the number or concentration of sperm cells in a given amount of semen. Normal semen contains greater than 15 million sperm per milliliter. A low sperm count is less than 15 million sperm per milliliter, though a low sperm count can be adequate for pregnancy if the sperm are healthy. Low sperm count can be the result of medical problems, age, and environmental factors, but lifestyle plays a role too. 
  • Sperm motility: Motility is measured as the percentage of moving sperm cells in a sample of semen. Healthy sperm motility is defined as sperm with forward progressions of at least 25 micrometers per second. There are different kinds of sperm motility issues, including slow or sluggish progressive motility, non-progressive motility (defined as anything less than 5 micrometers per second), and no mobility. Further, a total motile sperm count greater than 20 million is considered normal. Having a total motile sperm count less than 20 million indicates a lower likelihood of being able to achieve a pregnancy.
  • Sperm morphology: Healthy, well-formed sperm have egg-shaped heads and long tails. Sperm use these tails to move to the egg. Well-shaped sperm are important to help achieve a pregnancy.

Looking for specific steps you can take to boost male fertility and support healthy sperm? Check out our 11 tips for nourishing and promoting healthy sperm right this way.

The Bottom Line

The goal, obviously, is sperm that nails all three parameters. And the right nutrients can help. Research has found that micronutrient intake affects male reproductive health, and prioritizing vitamins D, C, E, and CoQ10 can have a huge impact on sperm health. Of course, that’s exactly why we included them, along with other evidence-based ingredients, in Beli Vitality for Men. Our formula optimizes the nutrients that have shown to support and nourish sperm in each stage of growth. After all, it all starts with the sperm—and the best sperm starts with the right nutrition.

Check out the other articles in our mini-series “It Starts With the Sperm” mini-series: Protecting Sperm DNA! and 

 

Resources

Fitzpatrick, J. et al. (2020). Chemicals signals from eggs facilitate cryptic female choice in humans. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.0805

Alberts, B. et al. (2002). Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26843/

Cetin, I. et al. (2010). Role of micronutrients in the periconceptional period. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19567449/

Additional Resources

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Ever wondered why men produce so much darn sperm, especially if only one of them will ultimately fertilize the egg? There are millions of sperm in normal ejaculate because it increases the likelihood that one will reach the egg and seal the deal. It begs the question, what exactly happens on the journey to the egg?

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A shot to the balls may be played for laughs on screen, but testicular impacts really aren’t a joke. Worse case scenario, getting hit in the balls can affect fertility thanks to complications like sexual dysfunction, low testosterone and other issues. Let's discuss.

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With the New Year upon us, there are all kinds of articles and videos making the rounds with predictions of the Zodiac signs most likely to get pregnant in 2024. But here at Beli, we take a much more scientific approach to conception. Here are the top eight things people will do to get pregnant in 2024.

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When it comes to becoming parents, good habits really will take you where you want to go. Now, new science is giving us insight into exactly how long it takes to form those good habits. We're breaking down all the ways you can build healthy habits to boost your chances of conception. Think of it as life-hacking, but for grown-ups.

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

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Read More

Men really do benefit from specialized nutrition in the form of a prenatal vitamin that’s formulated to support sperm health. Here’s what that looks like, and how specific nutrients can impact a man’s fertility health before fatherhood.

Read More

Shilajit is finally getting the credit it’s due, and we’re proud to point out that our proprietary formula was the very first to include this powerful Ayurvedic compound. Here’s why shilajit is rapidly becoming the darling of the male fertility world–and what you’re missing if you’re skipping it.

Read More

Ever wondered why men produce so much darn sperm, especially if only one of them will ultimately fertilize the egg? There are millions of sperm in normal ejaculate because it increases the likelihood that one will reach the egg and seal the deal. It begs the question, what exactly happens on the journey to the egg?

Read More

Just as women’s bodies need to be prepared for pregnancy, men’s bodies need to be ready to contribute healthy sperm for conception. Nutrients are the foundation that support the normal structure and function of sperm and men's fertility health. Taking Beli’s male prenatal supplement is a proactive way to strategically fuel your body to optimize fertility contributing to your overall chances of conceiving and supporting a healthy pregnancy.  

Read More

A shot to the balls may be played for laughs on screen, but testicular impacts really aren’t a joke. Worse case scenario, getting hit in the balls can affect fertility thanks to complications like sexual dysfunction, low testosterone and other issues. Let's discuss.

Read More

With the New Year upon us, there are all kinds of articles and videos making the rounds with predictions of the Zodiac signs most likely to get pregnant in 2024. But here at Beli, we take a much more scientific approach to conception. Here are the top eight things people will do to get pregnant in 2024.

Read More

Research shows that the overall health of both biological parents during the preconception window plays a huge role in everything from conception to pregnancy health to the lifetime health of their baby. Luckily, there are simple steps you can both take to improve your health together.

Read More

When it comes to becoming parents, good habits really will take you where you want to go. Now, new science is giving us insight into exactly how long it takes to form those good habits. We're breaking down all the ways you can build healthy habits to boost your chances of conception. Think of it as life-hacking, but for grown-ups.

Read More

Here at Beli, we’re working hard to raise awareness of the important role men play in the baby-making equation, which brings us to today’s topic of men’s preconception health and specifically, sperm health. Knowing what you’re working with can save you a lot of time, but is at-home sperm testing considered an important part of men’s preconception health? Let’s break it down.

Read More

There’s a certain magic to the holiday season, whether you’re all-in on the decorations and the family time or a self-proclaimed Scrooge from mid-November to the New Year. But when you’re trying to conceive, it can be a challenging time.  We’re sharing five tips for managing the holidays when you’re trying to conceive.

Read More

Everyone knows that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. But what about before you’re pregnant, during the trying-to-conceive stage? There’s no evidence that the occasional drink—i.e. one or two a week—is going to torpedo your chances of parenthood. But it is true that the more you drink, the greater the likelihood it will have an effect on your health. Here’s what the research says about alcohol and your fertility.

Read More

You’re clear on the mechanics of making a baby, but how much do you really know about conception and fertility? There are a lot of wild stories, downright falsehoods and notions that are actually rooted in a kernel of truth out there. In the interest of sticking to the facts, we’re debunking 15 of the most common myths about conception and fertility.

Read More

When you’re knocking boots in an effort to get knocked up, timing is everything. Your best chance of conceiving is during the most fertile time of your menstrual cycle—when you ovulate. The key is figuring out exactly when that happens. Fortunately, you have a few ways of detecting ovulation. Here’s what to know about understanding ovulation and timing sex for pregnancy.

Read More

You have big plans for parenthood in 2024, which means this is the time to start laying the groundwork for everything to come. While so much of conception is beyond our control, there are actionable steps you and your partner can take right now to support and nourish your fertility.

Read More

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Read More

Is there anything worse than the two-week wait? All the listicles out there sensibly advise keeping busy and journaling and talking it out, but we’re sharing more specific recommendations collected from the Beli community. Read on for seven tips for surviving the two-week wait without losing your mind.

Read More

Heard the one about ice baths and testosterone? Spoiler: there's little to no research behind that idea. Here’s what to know about cold plunges and male fertility, according to the research, plus where you should really focus your efforts if you’re trying to improve sperm health.

Read More

As a society, we’re an impatient bunch, and that applies to pregnancy, too. The second you decide it’s time to try for a baby, you’re ready to see those two pink lines. If you’ve recently tossed the birth control and you’re wondering how long it should take to get pregnant, here's what to know.

Read More

Jimmy Fallon. Hugh Jackman. Mark Zuckerberg. Keith Urban. Gordon Ramsey. Kyle Busch. Besides immediate name recognition, what else do these men have in common? They’ve all struggled with infertility issues—and it’s something they’re all talking about publicly. Here's why that matters.

Read More

While it’s true that popular hair loss meds work minor miracles on that receding hairline and back-of-the-head bald patch, it’s also true that it can come with side effects—some of them sexual. So, what does that mean in terms of male fertility? Here’s what couples should understand about the effects of popular hair-loss medications on sperm health.

Read More

A few years ago, the keto diet was all the rage—a high-fat, low-carb way to shed pounds quickly. While it’s lost a bit of its luster, as all diet trends do, interest in the keto diet remains. Specifically, those hoping to become parents wonder whether following this way of eating could support fertility. Is a diet high in fat and low in carbs the answer? It’s possible. Here’s what to know about the keto diet and whether it might help support fertility.

Read More

When you’re pregnant, of course, you’re told to limit your caffeine consumption. But what about when you’re trying to conceive? Can too much caffeine affect your chances of conception as a couple? It's a good idea to cut back—which means you need to be really clear about sneaky sources of caffeine in your diet.

Read More

Here at Beli, we’re staunch advocates of supporting men's fertility health in anticipation of fatherhood. In fact, our men’s prenatal vitamin, Beli Vitality for Men, is actually our flagship product. Today, we’re diving into the obvious and unexpected benefits of prenatal vitamins for men, starting with what actually happens when you start taking them.

Read More

Forbes Health recently reviewed our men's prenatal vitamins and we love author Leigh Weingus' take: "Beli Men Vitality Multivitamins first caught my eye because while I often see supplements that claim to improve fertility outcomes for women, I rarely see the same thing for men." We hear you, Leigh! Check out the full review here and read on for some highlights.

Read More

Everyone responds to supplementation (not to mention pregnancy!) differently, which is one reason that how you feel isn’t a clue into whether or not your prenatal vitamin is actually working. Instead, you need to be confident about the prenatal vitamin itself, and there are a few things you’ll want to look for.

Read More

We’re back with our second post in our “It Starts With The Sperm” mini series on the key roles sperm plays in conception, pregnancy and baby, and this time, we’re talking DNA. When it comes to male fertility, it’s not enough to have a high sperm count and top marks for motility and morphology. Without low levels of DNA fragmentation, a man’s fertility—along with his ability to successfully conceive with a partner—is affected.

Read More