People may require a sperm analysis for different reasons. Some individuals or couples will request a sperm analysis if they are having difficulty conceiving. In couples that have been unable to conceive, some estimates suggest that there is a male factor present in 40 to 50 percent of cases.
Up to 2 percent of men demonstrate issues with their sperm, resulting from one or a combination of:
Low sperm count in a sample of semen
Poor sperm movement, known as motility
Abnormal sperm size and shape, known as morphology
People may also have a sperm analysis to check if a vasectomy was successful. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that doctors carry out for permanent male sterilization. Following a vasectomy, doctors typically recommend regular sperm analyses for several months to ensure there are no sperm remaining in the semen.
A semen analysis serves the purpose of evaluating ejaculated sperm. Semen analysis is used both in the evaluation of male fertility and the follow-up of treatment regimens for male subfertility. It is often more useful in clinical practice to assess the actual fertilization capacity of sperm in vitro. The procedure is a core component of male fertility testing, and results can determine whether male factor infertility is present.
Why it’s Done
Complete semen analysis includes ejaculate volume, sperm count, concentration, motility, and morphology. These are assessed according to World Health Organization (WHO) criteria.
While both men and women can have problems, issues with male fertility can play a part in as many as half of all infertility cases. And since male infertility is often caused by low sperm production, one of the first tests your doctor will likely ask for is a semen analysis.
How You Prepare
You will be asked to refrain from both intercourse and masturbation for at least 3-5 days.
Your fertility specialist may also advise adjustment to certain lifestyle factors, such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine and some medications in the days leading up to the sample production.
You will need to wash your hands thoroughly before producing the semen sample.
The sample should be produced into a sterile specimen pot (provided by your fertility centre). The pot will need to be labelled with your full name, date of birth, and date and time of ejaculation. If this information is not present, the sample will not be analyzed.
If you choose to produce a sample from the comfort and privacy of your home, please keep in mind that the sample must be kept warm and delivered to your fertility centre within exactly one hour of ejaculation. Also, you cannot use a condom to transport the sample, as condoms contain spermicide.
Why is Semen Analysis done?
Volume: 1.5 ml to 5.0 ml
Motility (percentage of sperm moving): 50% or more
Forward progression (of the moving sperm; the strength of their forward movement): 2+ or more
Morphology (percentage of normally shaped sperm): 30% or more normal shapes by WHO criteria, or 14% or more by Kruger strict criteria
Presence of white or red blood cells: minimal
No hyperviscosity (thickening of seminal fluid)
White blood cells less than 1×106/ml
What if your results show an issue?
Male factor infertility issues are often treatable and fall across a spectrum. For example, there is a difference between having a low sperm count and having poor sperm motility or no sperm count. If your semen analysis results determine that an issue is present, the next steps include consulting with a fertility specialist to determine a treatment plan.