1. Sperm - a swallower's guide

    You all know what sperm looks, feels and tastes like, but do you actually know what sperm is? Do you know how boozing, smoking and pollution affects it? Do certain foods affect the taste of it? Let's find out…

    It doesn't matter if you're a young guy trying to understand his bodily functions a bit better, or a girl who's trying to get the scientific facts on what she's ingesting during a session of oral sex, there's more to sperm than what comes out during ejaculation.

    For example, did you know that it takes 70-75 days to produce a sperm? And did you know that sperm can survive for up to seven days in a women's body after sex? If you didn't pay attention in Sex Education class, don't panic: we've got the lowdown on all things sperm-related. So pay attention and find out how to increase your sperm count and mobility and how to spot the fact from the conjecture.

    Sperm! True or false?

    When it comes to scientific studies and newspaper reports, nothing hits the headlines quite like a decline in male fertility rates. All sorts of studies have been carried out that often contradict each other with widely varying results.

    Some studies claim that wearing tight underwear can affect sperm production, while others show no evidence of this. Some newspapers report that male fertility is on the decline, but again others have found no substantial evidence for these claims.

    What we do know, is that certain lifestyle and environmental factors can affect your sperm. These include heavy drinking, especially regular binge drinking and alcoholism, smoking and use of illegal drugs.

    It has often been reported that incessant smoking and drinking affects the taste of semen, but at present there's no concrete evidence to support this. Aside from smoking and boozing, zinc deficiency, STIs and ionizing radiation (X-rays, microwaves and radio frequency radiation) also affect sperm.

    Aside from the STI factor, which has to be treated by a professional GP, you can protect and increase your sperm production by take part in a more active and healthy lifestyle. Exercise, cutting out the drink and fags and generally eating more healthily will improve your sperm and your fertility rate when you're ready to have a child.

    What exactly are sperm?

    OK, sperm make up 10 per cent of semen and are produced in the testes then stored in the epididymis, which is shaped like a coil and positioned at the top of the testicles. Sperm can live there for up to a fortnight and, if not used, can then be reabsorbed by the body. Because sperm are continuously being produced, used, stored and reabsorbed, a man's sperm count will constantly change.

    Men who live a healthy and active lifestyle are said to produce between 70-150 million sperm everyday. According to the World Health Organisation, a normal sperm count should contain at least 20 million sperm per millilitre, while an average volume of semen in an ejaculation is at least 2 millilitres.

    What is semen?

    Sperm is carried out of a man's penis during ejaculation in a fluid called semen, which contains 10 per cent sperm; the rest is made up of enzymes, vitamins, calcium, protein, sodium, zinc and fructose (sugar) to give the sperm energy to swim.

    Some of the enzymes present in semen make the fluid quite sticky after ejaculation, which is thought to help the fluid stick near the neck of a woman's womb more easily.

    Semen is usually white in colour, but it can also be yellowish or even grey. If your semen or your partner's semen ever appears to be pink or red, blood may be present and a GP's advice should be sought.

    How STIs affect sperm

    It's not just women's fertility and health that can be affected by Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Advanced cases of Chlamydia, for example, can affect a man's heart, liver and appendix, while causing infections in the epididymis (where sperm is produced) inside the penis, leading to low sperm counts and mobility, and ultimately infertility if left untreated. Gonorrhea is another common STI cause of male infertility.

    As always, the best way to protect the health of your partner and of yourself while ensuring your sperm are healthy, is to use condoms when you have sex.

    It may seem like a sure-fire passion killer, but putting on condoms can be fun, especially if you invest in different colours, such as Night Light Glow In The Dark condoms, textured condoms, such as Trojan Twisted Pleasure condoms or Durex Sensation condoms, and flavoured condoms such as Durex Select condoms and Condomi Fruit Condoms.

    At the end of the day, a few seconds spent rolling on a condom will protect you both from STIs and unwanted pregnancy, while ensuring your fertility is intact until you decide to plan a family.