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Semen is a viscous, sticky fluid that is produced by the male reproductive organs. Its main component, the sperm, fuses with the egg in the female’s womb to form an embryo. Along with sperms, semen also contains various proteins and acids that help protect the sperm, keeping it healthy and also maximise its chances of reaching the egg and fertilisation. Various organs are responsible for the production of semen, including the testes, seminal vesicles, prostate gland and the bulbourethral glands. Each of these contributes by making a certain percentage of semen and giving it a distinct characteristic.

The semen is typically checked first for the colour, volume and viscosity. There are certain attributes of each that indicate the quality of semen, and may vary from individual to individual and are based on factors like diet, sexual behaviour, medication and lifestyle. The quality of the semen is checked by assessing the count, mobility and shape of the sperms with the help of a sperm analysis.  Abnormalities of semen testing could also point to health conditions like diabetes, genetic defects, infections and hormonal imbalances.

In order to understand the problem and root cause of abnormalities of the semen, semen analysis, hormonal testing and sampling of testicular tissue may be carried out. In most cases, an individual is referred to a fertility expert for abnormalities in the semen. However, mild derangements in the quality and viscosity of semen can be easily managed with the help of measures that you will find in this article. So, read on.

  1. What parts of the body contribute to the synthesis of semen?
  2. Why does semen become thin?
  3. How to improve semen quality and thickness?
  4. Checking for semen quality
  5. Semen testing
  6. What is semen?
  7. Are semen and sperm the same?
  8. Why is semen needed?
  9. What is semen made of?
  10. Doctors for sexual disorders and issues

Many people believe that making the sperm and semen is the job of the testicles alone, but that is far from the truth. The making of semen requires the contribution of multiple parts of the male reproductive organs, which include:

  • Seminal vesicles
    This pair of coiled glands produces about 70% of the semen. The seminal vesicles are located below the bladder. The fluid emerging from these vesicles contains various acids and mineral nutrients required by the sperms.
  • Prostate gland
    This gland contributes to about 25% of the semen by providing the liquid that comes from it. The liquid and minerals contained in it help stabilise the sperm’s DNA and give the semen its characteristic colour and properties.
  • Bulbourethral glands
    These glands are located at the base of the penis and provide secretions that form under 1% volume of the semen. The glands are responsible for ensuring that the sexual experience is smooth by secreting a mucus-like substance when the male is aroused. This helps to eliminate any residual urine from the urethra, lubricates the penis head prior to penetration and also neutralises any acidity in the vagina.
  • Testes
    The testes contain the all-important sperms that makeup under 5% of the total composition of the semen, although there could be up to 1,000 million sperms within that volume. Sperms thrive at a temperature lower than the body temperature; thus, the testes are located outside the body to provide a slightly lower temperature for optimum development.

Among the most common problems in the constitution of semen, is a condition where the semen becomes more watery. Considering viscosity is one of the parameters for normal and healthy semen, it could be a potential problem. Watery or thin semen can occur for several reasons, some of which are not indicators of any abnormalcy. Here are some causes for thin, watery semen:

  • Lowered sperm count: This is among the most common reasons why semen appears thin due to a condition known as oligospermia. This can be caused due to swollen veins in the testicles, sexually transmitted diseases or other infections, any tumour of the testicles, or simply an imbalance of hormones. Injuries and problems in ejaculation are other less common causes of lowered sperm count.
  • Deficiency of zinc: When suffering a deficiency of zinc, the body’s immune system uses antibodies which attack the sperm mistaking it for a foreign body, leading to the destruction of the sperms. This could be another cause for watery semen during ejaculation.
  • Frequent intercourse or masturbation: The more frequently you ejaculate within a short span of time, the more watery the semen is likely to turn. It takes your body a period of recovery to begin producing semen in the right quantities and with the right viscosity.

Having thin or watery semen does not necessarily mean that you have a medical problem. Simple measures like a minor modification to your diet or inclusion of dietary supplements or taking the pace of your sexual activity could help. In the event that the semen is thin due to lowered sperm count, it is important to remember that you are not entirely infertile. It may take a bit longer to be able to impregnate, but it certainly does not eliminate your chances at conception. Looking for some form of therapy or treatment for this condition can help improve these changes. An altered lifestyle which includes less alcohol and smoking, more exercise and a balanced diet can also help improve the overall health of semen significantly. Here is precisely what all you can do to deal with thin, watery semen:

Consume a balanced diet

Certain nutritional deficiencies are responsible for a lowered sperm count, which makes your semen look thin and watery. Consuming a balanced diet with the right composition of these nutritional components will ensure the absence of these deficiencies.

Increase the intake of zinc in your diet

While balanced diet, per se, is determinant of your sperm and seminal health, there are certain dietary components, which are crucial to the synthesis of sperm, zinc being one of the most important of these. Its deficiency may cause your sperm to become thin and watery and worsen your concerns. In order to prevent this, it is important that you include sufficient amount of zinc in your diet, which can be achieved by the intake of animal products like dairy, meat, fish and eggs along with legumes and nuts.

Consider taking supplements

At times when you are unable to keep up with a healthy diet, it is important that you consult a doctor and talk about the intake of nutritional supplements. Getting yourself tested for any nutritional deficiencies, must probably form the first measure to be taken in case you doubt that the consistency of your semen is becoming thin. In some cases with zinc deficiency, supplements may be prescribed and must be taken on time.

Take herbal supplements

Certain herbs have been recognised to improve sperm count and quality. The inclusion of these herbs can help in improving the thickness and viscosity of the semen. Best of these herbs include ashwagandha, maca, fenugreek, Catuaba bark and cordyceps. Simple kitchen ingredients like ginger supplements can also help with your concern. However, for the precise dosage and use, it is important that you talk to your Ayurvedic doctor.

Modulate your sexual activity

Unlike women, men need some time before they can recover and have sex again after they ejaculate. Having sex too often or even masturbating each day may eventually make your semen thin and watery because the sperms are not getting enough time to regenerate and again. In such cases, the limitation of sexual activity can be helpful. Since different men require different time to regenerate, which can vary from a few hours to a few days, it is important that you understand your body and limit sexual activity before you are completely ready. At the same time, it is important that you do not abstain from sexual activity completely, as this can also reduce your sperm count and viscosity of the semen.

Talk to your doctor

If you often notice that your semen is getting thinner and more watery, it is important that you do not ignore this and visit a doctor to determine the exact cause, which will be managed accordingly. Moreover, certain drugs like alpha blockers can aggravate your problem of a watery semen. Your doctor may also modulate the dosage of these drugs. On the other hand, if you suffer from anejaculation, that is, have no semen at all during sexual activity, it is all the more important to see a doctor since this often relates with serious underlying causes like structural and functional changes at the bladder neck.

Manage stress

Certain studies have also found that a low sperm count or the absence of ejaculate in men could also be due to psychogenic causes. So, it is important that you do not worry too much about your sperm count or semen and focus on the pleasure of the act. This will most likely help with your concern. Other than this, measures to reduce stress and anxiety, like meditation and yoga may prove to be helpful.

Opt for therapy

In some men, stress, anxiety and relationship problems along with performance pressure can alter the quality and quantity of semen secreted. In such men, counselling, therapy and couples’ therapy can be helpful. Further, couples’ therapy may help to improve communication between the partners, which will make it easier to deal with the problem.

Lifestyle changes

A healthy diet and exercise regimen will go a long way in improving the quality and viscosity of semen. While you are exercising, it is important to protect your man parts as repeated trauma and injury can affect the quality of your semen. Stay away from contact sports and activities that can aggravate this injury. Another thing which you can do for your health and that of your semen is stop smoking. Not only does smoking negatively affect the quality of your semen but also can lead to infertility in the long run.

There are various parameters that help determine normal, healthy semen. Based on certain characteristics of the semen, it is easy to understand how healthy your semen is.

  • Colour
    The range of colour of the semen spans from transparent to white or grey, and sometimes even slightly yellow. The glands that contribute to the making of semen are largely responsible for the colour imparted.
  • Viscosity
    The semen may either be thin and watery or thick and sticky. It can sometimes be as thick as toothpaste. Even the semen that is unusually thick liquefies due to the presence of PSA, which breaks it down.
  • Volume
    The normal amount of semen ejaculated varies between 1.5 to 7 mL. Several factors can either reduce or increase the volume of the ejaculated semen, such as long spells of abstinence, slow production of seminal fluid in the body, or even frequent ejaculation.

It is essential to remember that the quality of semen depends not just on the glands and organs that produce the semen, but also is influenced by a range of factors, which you must take care of.

A medical study or analysis of the semen involves studying the sperm and the semen for its count, shape and movements. This is required to detect any abnormalities with the semen, which could be a possible cause of fertility issues between a couple. In case any abnormalities are observed, they are managed based on individual diagnosis and medical history. Semen tests are also conducted as a confirmatory test for the success of vasectomy procedures. 

Semen is a fluid contained in the male reproductive organs and is responsible for carrying sperms that fertilise the egg in the female reproductive system. The primary component of semen are spermatozoa or sperm cells that are responsible for fusing with the egg to produce an offspring.

Semen is released from the male body in a process known as ejaculation. At the point of attaining an orgasm, the pelvic muscles contract and the semen is released through the penis. Once the semen enters the vagina, it passes through the cervix (mouth of the uterus) into the uterus in search of an egg. A typical male releases anything between 4 to 7 mL of semen during each ejaculation.

While many of us believe semen to be interchangeably called the sperm, they are different from each other. Sperm cells are the main, most important components of the semen; however, semen also has many other components such as fructose, enzymes, proteins and other nutrients. The primary responsibility of the semen is to ensure that the sperm is given the best chance to reach the egg by providing nutrition and protection to it as well as being the fluid medium through which the sperms swim towards the egg. Other components of the semen are responsible for lubrication, increasing the mobility of the sperms, and reducing the resistance of the egg to fuse with the sperm.

As stated, the main purpose of semen is to give the sperm all the necessary support in order to ensure its survival and maximise its chances of fertilising the egg. Semen is usually thick and sticky, so, it can stick to the cervix and help the sperms maintain their vitality as they make their way from the male to the female body. The sperms use the fluid medium of the semen to ‘swim’ their way up to the egg. The alkaline nature of the semen protects the sperm from the acidic environment of the vagina. The various components of semen provide nutrition to the sperm, thus keeping the sperm healthy and giving it energy.

The largest component of the semen is a viscous fluid containing fructose, which forms over 60% of the semen. Enzymes including lipids, acid phosphates and citric acid makeup around 30% of the semen and are responsible for its cloudy white colour. A clear secretion combines with these components in a small volume. This is released by the bulbourethral glands and is less than 1% of the composition of the semen. Its main job is to help the sperms navigate through the vagina and the cervix more smoothly. The final component, at close to 5% of the semen volume, are the sperm cells. At every ejaculation, between 300 and 500 million sperms are released along with all other components of the semen and are ejected from the male body.

Some of the main components of the semen are:

  • Sugar
    The sugar content in the semen is mainly intended to give the sperm more energy and help it swim faster.
  • Zinc
    Essential for better health of the sperm and prostate gland.
  • Prostaglandins
    To help the cells grow and form a better environment for the embryo.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
    Proteins that help maintain the liquid state of the semen after ejaculation.
  • Sulfate chemicals
    Prevent sperms from swelling with the seminal fluid.

Other than these main components, phosphorus, lactic acid and cholesterol are also some of the components of semen.

Dr. Abdul Haseeb Sheikh

Dr. Abdul Haseeb Sheikh

Sexology
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Srikanth Varma

Dr. Srikanth Varma

Sexology
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Pranay Gandhi

Dr. Pranay Gandhi

Sexology
10 Years of Experience

Dr. Tarun

Dr. Tarun

Sexology
8 Years of Experience

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References

  1. Mann, T (1954).The biochemistry of semen. London: Methuen & Co; New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  2. Harvey, Clare (1948). ADS General Science Abstract Service. Nature. 162 (4125): 812
  3. Bygdeman M. Bendvold E. Gottlieb C.Svanborg K.Eneroth P. (1985) Prostaglandins in Human Seminal Fluid and Its Relation to Fertility. In: Bailey J.M. (eds) Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Lipoxins. GWUMC Department of Biochemistry Annual Spring Symposia. Springer, Boston, MA
  4. Jawad HM. (2013). Zinc sulfate treatment of secondary male infertility associated with positive serum and seminal plasma anti-sperm antibody test. DOI: 10.1016/j.mefs.2012.09.005
  5. Owen, D. H.; Katz, DF (2005).A review of the physical and chemical properties of human semen and the formulation of a semen simulant.. Journal of Andrology. 26 (4): 459–69.
  6. WHO laboratory manual .WHO laboratory manual for the Examination and processing of human semen.Fifth edition (2010).SBN 978 92 4 154778 9
  7. Roberts M, Jarvi K.Steps in the investigation and management of low semen volume in the infertile man. 2009 Dec;3(6):479-85. PMID: 20019978
  8. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Ejaculation problems
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