Glossary of Terms

Amino acid – Any of a class of organic compounds that contains at least one amino group and one carboxyl group. Alpha-amino acids are the building blocks from which proteins are constructed.

Antioxidant – A substance, like vitamin E, vitamin C, or Beta Carotene, that protects body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation.

Asthenospermia – The loss or reduction of sperm’s motility, a contributing factor to male infertility.

Fertilization – When a sperm reaches the egg and is able to penetrate the lining and therefore inseminate the egg.

Free radical – An atom or molecule that bears an unpaired electron and is extremely reactive, capable of engaging in rapid chain reactions that destabilize other molecules and generate many more free radicals: in the body, deactivated by antioxidants, uric acid, and certain enzyme activities.

Infertility – Not capable of initiating, sustaining, or supporting reproduction. Approximately 15% of the couples in the United States are infertile. Biologically, men and women are each equally responsible for infertility, with 50% of the incidences of infertility being because of poor quality sperm, and 50% of the incidences being related to the woman’s reproductive system.

Normospermia – Normal sperm.

Oligospermia – Low sperm count. A condition where not enough sperm exists in the semen to be able to traverse to the eggs and subsequently inseminate or penetrate and achieve conception.

Oligoasthenospermia – The presence of a low sperm count compounded with poor motility.

Oxidative damage – The damage spermatozoa suffers because of its exposure to oxygen carried through the bloodstream. Oxidative damage can cause sperm to decrease in motility and lead to oligospermia (above) and other sperm disorders, inhibiting its ability to penetrate and cause conception.

Seminal plasma – The ejaculated material carrying the sperm.

Spermatogenesis – The process through which sperm is created in the testes.

Sperm count – The number of sperm found in any particular sample. The higher the sperm count, the greater the chance of achieving conception. When sperm count is low, it becomes markedly more difficult to conceive. Tests can be performed to determine if an infertile couple is having trouble conceiving due to low sperm count. See also Oligospermia.

Sperm motility – The ability of sperm to travel up the uterine canal.

Sperm production – See spermatogenesis

Teratospermia – A condition of sperm characterized by the presence of malformed or damaged sperm in the semen.