What is semen analysis?
Semen analysis examines the viability and health of a man’s sperm. Also called a sperm count test, this analysis measures three main factors in the health of sperm: the number of sperm (sperm count), the movement of sperm (sperm motility) and the shape of the sperm.
Two or three separate analyses of the sperm are often conducted to get a more accurate picture of the health of the sperm. Tests should take place at least one week apart over the span of two to three months to get the most accurate results. Since sperm counts change daily, the average sperm count will be taken from each sample to give a more concrete result.
What is the purpose of semen analysis?
There are two reasons to perform a semen analysis: to test for male infertility or vasectomy success.
Test for male infertility
If a couple is having trouble getting pregnant and is unsure why, a semen analysis is likely to be recommended. This test will help determine if the male is experiencing any infertility issues. The results will also indicate if sperm dysfunction or low sperm county may be the reason behind the infertility
Test for vasectomy success
Another reason to get a sperm analysis is to test how effective a vasectomy procedure was. In this case, the doctor and patient are hoping for a zero sperm count, which indicates the vasectomy was successful. Doctor usually recommend that men who have had a vasectomy get sperm analysis performed monthly for the first three months following the procedure.
How do I prepare for semen analysis?
Your doctor will provide specific instructions on how to prepare for the semen analysis. It is extremely important to follow every step in order to get accurate results.
How to get the best sample
To get the best sample for your semen analysis you should:
- Not ejaculate 24 to 72 hours prior to the test
- Avoid caffeine, drugs and alcohol two to five days prior to the test
- Discontinue taking herbal medications (as instructed by your physician)
- Stop taking hormone medications (as instructed by your physician)
What happens during the semen analysis?
You will need to provide a semen sample to be analyzed. There are four ways the semen sample may be collected: sex with a condom or withdrawal prior to ejaculating, masturbation and electronically stimulated ejaculation. Masturbation is the most common method used and produces the cleanest sample.
The sample must be kept as body temperature and delivered to the lab within half an hour to one hour after leaving the body, which is why producing the sample in a clinic or lab is often the best option. You will submit the sample in a lab provided container for testing and you’re done.
What are normal semen analysis results?
Test results for semen analysis are usually available within one day to one week after your sample is submitted. A doctor will consider many factors when analyzing the results.
Shape of the sperm
If more than 50% of the sperm are shaped normally, the result is considered normal. If more than 50% are shaped irregularly, this can lead to fertility issues. The sperm analysis lab may note abnormalities on any part of the sperm—the head, midsection or tail. Abnormally shaped sperm may also be immature and unable to sufficiently fertilize an egg.
Motility of the sperm
More than 50% of sperm must exhibit normal movement to be considered a normal result in the sperm analysis. Sperm motility is important as related to fertility as it affects the sperms ability to reach the egg. In the lab, an automated system evaluates the movement of the sperm and gives it a rating from 0 to 4. A sperm at 0 is not moving at all. A rating of 3 or 4 indicates good movement.
From 20 million to more than 200 million is a normal result for sperm count in a semen analysis. This factor is also referred to as sperm density. Low sperm count can make conceiving much more difficult as there are less sperm to make it to the egg and fertilize it.
A normal result for semen pH is between 7.2 and 7.8. If the pH level of a sample is higher than 8.0 this may indicate an infection. If pH is less than 7.0 it can indicate block ejaculatory ducts or a contaminated sample.
More than 2 millimeters is a normal result for sperm volume. Low semen volume can imply there is an insufficient amount of sperm to fertilize an egg. If sperm volume is high, the amount of sperm that is present may be diluted.
Normal samples take 15 to 30 minutes to liquefy. This factor is an indicator of sperm motility.