Why does a woman’s immune system attack and kill sperm cells?

Our body has an intricate defense mechanism called the immune system that serves as our shield from bacteria, viruses, and other foreign elements that can result in diseases or illnesses. It produces different kinds of cells to attack invaders that may play havoc in our bodies.

Our immune system works by recognizing cells based on the proteins existing on the cells’ surface. The immune system bombards bacteria, viruses, and other foreign entities that are not known or deemed to be different from our own cells.

While it is great that the immune system protects us from outside invaders to keep us fit and reproduce, it is still not a perfect system. One flaw is that the female body treats the sperm as a foreign body and launches an attack against them, killing many sperms in the process.

Once the sperms are released in the vagina, they start to travel towards the cervix, the uterus, and the fallopian tubes. However, the female’s immune system begins to respond and sends white blood cells to attack the foreign cells, which typically bacteria entering the vagina but also attacks the sperm cells. All the sperm that can avoid the bombardment of the white blood cells, continues the journey, and looks for a path towards the uterus.

A great thing, though, is that semen has prostaglandins, which are produced in the seminal vesicles of the males. It has an array of functions, and one of these is to subdue the reaction of the female’s immune system in an attempt to decrease sperm mortality. Yet, mortality is still high.

Among the components of semen are prostaglandins produced by the male’s seminal vesicles. These have multiple functions, one of which is to suppress the female’s immune reaction and minimize sperm mortality. Even so, the mortality is still high. The female’s immune system destroys a significant amount of sperm cells as they try to pass through its defenses, looking into making it to the fallopian tubes where an egg cell is waiting for them.

As it is not easy to travel the grooves of the female’s reproductive system and its immuno-response, a man needs to ejaculate 30 million sperms at a minimum into the vagina to make a woman pregnant. If he releases sperm below that number, say from 10-30 million, chances are the woman will not be able to conceive a child. But, having a higher number of cells makes it more likely that enough sperm cells would be able to pass through his mate’s immune system. Only around 200 sperms cells get to survive and get close near an egg.

If the sperm released by a man is less, a procedure is often like intrauterine insemination is often need. It involves placing sperm directly inside the woman’s uterus to initiate fertilization. It aims to increase the number of sperms that will reach the fallopian, which also boosts the chances of fertilization.

However, if infertility is the cause, such as a damaged or blocked fallopian tube for the females, or decreased sperm motility or sperm count among males. IVF or In Vitro Fertilization would be the best resort. However, the procedure is more complicated, and there are strict guidelines and exceptions to consider.

More Readings:

Immune system (Wikipedia)

Human Fertilization (Wikipedia)

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