Semen Analysis this substance is released from a man’s penis when he has an orgasm (ejaculates). It contains:
Sperm, male reproductive cells. The cells have a unique shape that contain:
- Head, which includes genetic material (DNA) to fertilize a woman’s egg.
- Tail that helps it travel (“swim”) through a woman’s reproductive system to reach the egg and fertilize it.
Fluids, which make it possible to deposit sperm toward the back of a woman’s vagina. This area is close to the cervix, which is the opening of the womb, where babies develop.
Proteins, vitamins and minerals that fuel the sperm’s journey to the egg.
A semen analysis looks at the volume and quality of a man’s sperm. It is one of the first steps to detect male fertility issues. The test also shows whether a vasectomy was successful. Semen analysis involves collecting a semen sample and evaluating it in a lab.
What is semen analysis?
Semen analysis, also known as a sperm count test, analyzes the health and viability of a man’s sperm. Semen is the fluid containing sperm (plus other sugar and protein substances) that’s released during ejaculation. A semen analysis measures three major factors of sperm health:
- the number of sperm
- the shape of the sperm
- the movement of the sperm, also known as “sperm motility”
Test for male infertility
A semen analysis is often recommended when couples are having problems getting pregnant. The test will help a doctor determine if a man is infertile. The analysis will also help determine if low sperm count or sperm dysfunction is the reason behind infertility.
Your doctor will let you know what you should do in preparation for the semen analysis. It’s very important to follow these instructions for accurate results.
To get the best sample:
- Avoid ejaculation for 24 to 72 hours before the test.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and drugs such as cocaine and marijuana two to five days before the test.
- Stop taking any herbal medications, such as St. John’s wort and echinacea, as instructed by your healthcare provider.
- Avoid any hormone medications as instructed by your healthcare provider.
Discuss any medications you’re taking with your doctor.
How does a semen analysis work?
A man masturbates to produce a semen sample. This is the preferred method because it provides a clean sample. Since sperm counts vary from day to day, you may need to provide more than one sample spaced out a few weeks apart.
Healthcare providers use research-based methods to handle and test the semen. Going to a lab that specializes in semen analysis ensures you receive accurate results.
This includes labs that:
- Are part of a fertility clinic.
- Perform a high volume of semen analyses.
What does the analysis look at?
A post-vasectomy semen analysis checks to see whether the semen contains sperm.
- Normal results would show no sperm or very few non-moving sperm.
- Abnormal results would contain moving sperm or high numbers of non-moving sperm.
When used as a fertility test in men, it looks at:
- pH level: Whether semen is too acidic, which can affect sperm health.
- Semen volume: Amount of semen in the sample (in millimeters).
- Sperm concentration: Number of sperm per millimeter of semen.
- Sperm morphology: Size and shape of the sperm.
- Sperm motility: Ability of the sperm to swim toward an egg.
- Time to liquefaction: How quickly semen changes from a sticky substance to a liquid.
- Vitality: Percent of live sperm in the sample.
- White blood cells: A sign of infection or inflammation.
How do I prepare for a semen analysis if it’s used for fertility testing?
You will need to abstain from sexual activity for two to seven days. This includes intercourse and masturbation. Doing so ensures sperm counts are at their highest level, so you receive a thorough analysis.
How do I prepare for a post-vasectomy semen analysis?
This test is done after a vasectomy is performed, usually 8 to 12 weeks later. It’s helpful to masturbate several times after your vasectomy. This helps clear sperm from your system. You may be able to provide a semen sample at home and then bring it to the lab.
How do I provide a semen sample to check fertility?
Providing a sample by masturbating is the preferred method. This usually takes place in a lab in a private, comfortable room. You put the sample into a sterile, wide-mouthed container.
If you are not able to masturbate due to religious reasons, you still have options. Your healthcare provider may give you a nonlubricated condom to use during intercourse.
What do results look like for post-vasectomy semen analysis?
After a vasectomy, it can take several weeks for semen to become sperm-free (azoospermia) or have very few non-moving sperm. You should use backup birth control, like condoms, until you have a test with the desired result.
What do results look like for male fertility testing?
The lab compares the characteristics of your semen to expected values. Your semen should contain:
- Active sperm, each with a single round head and tail.
- A certain number of sperm.
- Have a pH that’s not too acidic.
- Fluid that turns to liquid in a short amount of time so it can travel through a woman’s reproductive system.
What do abnormal results mean for my ability to help a woman conceive?
Abnormal results mean that you have a below-average chance of getting a woman pregnant. But a semen analysis is not the only factor in evaluating male infertility.
Extra testing is often needed to learn more. These tests may confirm or rule out:
- Blockages that prevent the body from releasing sperm into semen.
- Low sperm count.
- Low testosterone or hormone abnormalities.
- Side effects of medications or other medical issues
Are there any risks to the test?
There is no known risk to a semen analysis
Is there anything else I need to know about a semen analysis?
There are at-home test kits that measure sperm count. Sperm count is the number of sperm in the fluid (semen) ejaculated during an orgasm. Sperm count is one of many factors in male infertility. You may have a normal sperm count and still have fertility problems. A home test may help find some fertility problems earlier for men who hesitate to see a provider due to cost, embarrassment, or other reasons. But it is not a replacement for a full evaluation and analysis by a health care provider.