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Like seemingly everything related to male sexuality (think penis shape and penis size), semen may, at times, be a source of pride, concern, complications, and potential anxiety.
At some point, you might worry that your ejaculations don’t produce enough semen or that your semen doesn’t come out with enough pressure. This could be the result of comparing yourself to porn stars (always a no-win idea); the mistaken idea that ejaculation volume is connected to fertility, masculinity, or virility; or the belief that a large ejaculation volume is related to the quality of a sexual experience.
Here’s what you need to know about the science of semen volume, the truth about what it means, and when you might want to consult a healthcare provider about it.
How to produce more semen
There’s one low-tech, no-cost thing you can try to increase your semen volume. If you’ve been masturbating or having sex frequently, that can reduce the amount of your ejaculate. If you hold off for a few days, chances are your volume of semen will increase. One study found that for the first four days after ejaculation, semen volume increases by about 12% per day that ejaculation does not occur (Carlsen, 2004).
Online or in vitamin stores, you’ll find numerous supplements that claim to boost various aspects of masculinity and male sexual health, from penis size to testosterone level to semen production.
Some supplements that have been touted as having semen-boosting properties include lecithin, zinc, vitamin D3, ashwagandha, maca, fenugreek, amino acids, and D-aspartic acid. You may have read anecdotal online testimonials about them individually or combined into brand-name supplements with “snazzy” names like Semenex.
However: “There is no FDA-approved pill that can increase your ejaculate volume,” says Seth Cohen, MD, MPH, a urologist with NYU Langone Health in New York City. “If a patient came to me and said they wanted to take a supplement to try it, I would say, go ahead. But if they said, ‘Show me a robust, randomized, placebo-controlled trial that shows ashwagandha increases semen volume,’ I would say it doesn’t exist.”
What is seminal fluid?
What is that stuff that comes out of the penis with ejaculation, anyway? Many men think semen and sperm are interchangeable terms, but very little of semen is actually made up of sperm. Semen is a fairly elaborate co-production that incorporates the testicles, the prostate, the seminal vesicles, and the bulbourethral glands (Lawrentschuk, 2016):
- The seminal vesicles—two saclike glands behind the bladder—secrete about 50% to 65% of the fluid that becomes semen.
- The prostate gland produces prostatic fluid, which nourishes and transports sperm; it produces about 20% to 30% of semen volume.
- Just 5% is sperm, which is produced in the testicles.
- Finally, the bulbourethral glands (also known as the Cowper’s glands)—pea-sized glands near the base of the penis—secrete a lubricating fluid that tops things off.
When ejaculating, men produce about 1.5 ml to 5 ml of semen (NIH, n.d.). On the upper end, that’s about a teaspoon.
Does more semen mean you have better sperm?
In most cases, a man’s sperm health—including his sperm count and sperm motility—is not related to the amount of semen he produces. Men who are bigger shooters aren’t inherently more fertile than men who are decent dribblers.
One caveat: A few men who are infertile because of a low sperm count may experience low semen volume (Roberts, 2009). But one does not necessarily indicate the other.
Semen volume and sex
Likewise, the amount of semen you shoot is not related to how good you are in bed. Don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at some studies.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine was reportedly the first on how male ejaculation volume and intensity affect women’s pleasure and orgasms during sex. The study surveyed 240 sexually active heterosexual women and found that (Burri, 2018):
- Only 13% of the women considered the quantity of their partner’s expelled ejaculate to be a reflection of their own sexual attractiveness.
- Only about half of women thought it was “very important” that their partner ejaculated during sex at all.
If you’re in a male same-sex relationship, you might compare your semen volume to your partner’s. If you’re worried you don’t measure up, remember that semen volume is not a measure of masculinity or a sign that you’re really into someone. We’re willing to bet your partner doesn’t give it a second thought.
What causes changes in semen volume?
A number of things can cause changes in the volume of your ejaculate. The first is simply age. “When you were a young guy just going through puberty, that’s probably the most semen you’re ever going to ejaculate in your life,” says Cohen. “Slowly, over decades, that volume will go down.”
Here’s why: “Everybody knows as men get older, your prostate grows. And as the prostate grows, it becomes a little bit more difficult to pee,” says Cohen. “The other thing that happens is the prostate loses the vascular cells that make it such a juicy organ that provides all this seminal fluid.” The result: Lower semen volume.
Cohen says he rarely sees young men in his practice who are concerned about low semen volume. Instead, he gets about one query a week from older men (usually over 50) who’ve noticed a consistent reduction in their semen volume for several months to a year. This warrants investigation because it could indicate a prostate issue that needs to be addressed.
Some conditions that can cause changes in the volume of ejaculate, says Cohen, include:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH: An enlargement of the prostate that can also cause difficulty urinating, frequent or more urgent urination, or a weak stream
- Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate that might also cause the color, consistency, and smell of semen to change.
If you’re concerned about your semen volume, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider who can take a thorough medical history and conduct a full exam. And instead of looking for magic bullets to improve your sex life and sexual function, it’s a better approach to remember that all aspects of your sexual health will be better when you are healthy.
Making lifestyle changes like eating a balanced, nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, reducing stress, avoiding tobacco and recreational drugs, and drinking alcohol in moderation will improve your cardiovascular and overall well-being. That can increase blood flow, the quality of your erections, and the amount of energy you have for sex, which can only increase the odds you (and your partner, if applicable) will have a good time in bed.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
- Burri, A., Buchmeier, J., & Porst, H. (2018). The importance of male ejaculation for female sexual satisfaction and function. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(11), 1600–1608. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.08.014. Retrieved from https://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(18)31158-5/fulltext
- Carlsen, E., Petersen, J. H., Andersson, A. M., & Skakkebaek, N. E. (2004). Effects of ejaculatory frequency and season on variations in semen quality. Fertility and Sterility, 82(2), 358–366. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2004.01.039. Retrieved from https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(04)00877-5/fulltext
- Lawrentschuk, N. & Perera, M. (2016). Benign prostate disorders. [Updated 2016 Mar 14]. In: Endotext [Internet]. Retrieved on Oct. 9, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279008
- McKay, A. C., Odeluga, N., Jiang, J., et al. (2020). Anatomy, abdomen and pelvis, seminal vesicle. [Updated 2020 May 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved on Oct. 9, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499854/
- National Institutes of Health. Semen analysis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved on Aug. 12, 2020 from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003627.htm
- Roberts, M., & Jarvi, K. (2009). Steps in the investigation and management of low semen volume in the infertile man. Canadian Urological Association Journal = Journal de l’Association des urologues du Canada, 3(6), 479–485. doi: 10.5489/cuaj.1180. Retrieved from https://cuaj.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/1180
Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.