How Semen May Affect The Female Ovulation Cycle

Unless we're trying to get pregnant or have an underlying health condition that requires it, we don't pay a lot of attention to our ovulation cycles. 

During ovulation, the egg is released from one of the ovaries. There are two different types of ovulation in mammals — spontaneous and induced. The first kind is what happens with humans — the female body periodically releases an egg with or without sexual stimulation. Cows and dogs follow the same principle. Induced ovulation is when sex is required for the release of an egg from an ovary. This happens in camels, rabbits, and llamas. While lots of things can affect female ovulation — like your age, weight, and lifestyle habits like smoking — research has found that semen can affect it too. 

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have found that a type of protein found in semen prompts ovulation in females — both in species with induced and spontaneous ovulation. The study was done on cows and llamas. Professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S. and lead researcher, Gregg Adams shared, "This latest finding broadens our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate ovulation and raises some intriguing questions about fertility." How does this happen exactly? `

The protein in semen has an effect on the female brain

The research team labeled the protein in question "ovulation-inducing factor" or OIF and found that this particular protein is very similar in properties to nerve growth factor (NGF) — a protein responsible for the growth and maintenance of sympathetic and embryonic sensory neurons in our system. 

"To our surprise, it turns out they [OIF and NGF] are the same molecule. Even more surprising is that the effects of NGF in the female were not recognized earlier, since it's so abundant in seminal plasma," Gregg Adams explained to the University of Saskatchewan. 

Neuroscientist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Sergio Ojeda told Science that once the protein in the semen gets into the bloodstream, it makes its way to the female brain, more specifically the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Once it gets there, it triggers the release of hormones needed for fertility, which in turn releases another set of hormones responsible for ovulation. Ovulation isn't the only factor semen affects when it comes to the female body. 

Semen can affect female genes too

According to a 2012 study done on fruit flies published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a type of seminal fluid protein called "sex peptide" found in semen can affect a diverse set of genes in females which can then set off a wide range of responses. 

Lead researcher and professor from the University of East Anglia's School of Biological Sciences, Tracey Chapman shared (via The Royal Society) that they analyzed the effects of "sex peptide" and found "significant alterations to genes linked to egg development, early embryogenesis, immunity, nutrient sensing, behavior and, unexpectedly, phototransduction — or the pathways by which they see." According to Allo Health, the proteins and antioxidants in semen can boost one's immune system. Talking about sex has a surprising benefit for your immune system

Semen is full of nutrients — not just protein, although not in sufficient quantities to be of any nutritional value, per WebMD. It has calcium, magnesium, potassium, fructose, and zinc. The main reason seminal fluid has nutrients is to nourish the sperm living inside it while it makes its way to the egg. There is no end to what we can learn about our bodies. Fodder for your thoughts the next time you have sex or perform oral stimulation on your partner, perhaps?