What is Semen Analysis?
A semen analysis, also called a sperm count, measures the quantity and quality of a man’s semen and sperm. Semen is the thick, white fluid released from the penis during a man’s sexual climax (orgasm). This release is called ejaculation. Semen contains sperm, the cells in a man that carry genetic material. When a sperm cell unites with an egg from a woman, it forms an embryo (the first stage of an unborn baby’s development).
A low sperm count or abnormal sperm shape or movement can make it difficult for a man to make a woman pregnant. A semen analysis can help figure out the cause of male infertility.
Why is Semen Analysis performed?
A semen analysis is used to find out if a problem with semen or sperm may be causing a man’s infertility. The test may also be used to see if a vasectomy has been successful. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that is used to prevent pregnancy by blocking the release of sperm during sex.
You may need a semen analysis if you and your partner have been trying to have a baby for at least 12 months without success. If you’ve recently had a vasectomy, you may need this test to make sure the procedure has worked.
What should I know before receiving Semen Analysis?
There is no known risk to a semen analysis.
How to prepare for Semen Analysis?
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.
What happens during Semen Analysis?
You’ll need to provide your doctor with a semen sample for a semen analysis.
Two main factors are crucial to having a good testing sample. First, the semen must be kept at body temperature. If it gets too warm or too cold, the results will be inaccurate. Second, the semen must be delivered to the testing facility within 30 to 60 minutes of leaving the body.
Home semen tests are available. However, they only test for sperm count. They don’t analyze sperm motility or shape.
Results for at-home tests are usually available within 10 minutes. A normal sperm count (above 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen) from a home test doesn’t necessarily mean that a man is fertile, since it doesn’t consider all the possible causes of male infertility.
If you are concerned about your fertility, it’s best to get a lab test done by a medical professional. This will give you a more comprehensive evaluation of your fertility.
What happens after Semen Analysis?
After your semen sample is collected, your test results should be ready within 24 hours to one week, depending on the laboratory you go to.
If you have any questions about the Semen Analysis, please consult with your doctor to better understand your instructions.
Explanation of results
What do my results mean?
When a doctor reviews sperm analysis test results, there are many factors to consider. An analysis after vasectomy looks for the presence of sperm, but the analysis to look for fertility issues is much more in depth. Your doctor will take each of the following results into account:
A normal result for sperm shape is that more than 50 percent of sperm are normally shaped. If a man has greater than 50 percent of sperm that are abnormally shaped, this reduces his fertility. A laboratory may identify abnormalities in the sperm’s head, midsection, or tail. It’s also possible the sperm could be immature and therefore not able to effectively fertilize an egg.
For a normal result, more than 50 percent of sperm must move normally an hour after ejaculation. Sperm movement, or motility, is important to fertility because sperm must travel to fertilize an egg. An automated system analyzes the sperm for movement and rates them on a scale of 0 to 4. A score of 0 means the sperm are not moving, and a score of 3 or 4 represents good movement.
A pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8 to achieve a normal result. A pH level higher than 8.0 could indicate the donor has an infection. A result less than 7.0 could indicate the specimen is contaminated or that the man’s ejaculatory ducts are blocked.
The volume of semen for a normal result should be greater than 2 milliliters. A low semen volume could indicate a low amount of sperm to fertilize an egg. An excess fluid volume could also mean the amount of sperm present is diluted.
It should take 15 to 30 minutes before semen liquefies. While semen is initially thick, its ability to liquefy, or turn to a watery consistency, helps sperm to move. If semen does not liquefy in 15 to 30 minutes, fertility could be affected.
The sperm count in a normal semen analysis should be between 20 million to over 200 million. This result is also known as sperm density. If this number is low, conceiving can be more difficult.
The appearance should be whitish to gray and opalescent. Semen that has a red-brown tint could indicate the presence of blood, while a yellow tint could indicate jaundice or be a medication side effect
Abnormal results could indicate the following:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Disease, such as diabetes
- Gene defects
- Exposure to radiation
If your results come back at abnormal levels, your doctor will probably suggest that you take additional tests. These tests include:
- Genetic tests
- Hormone testing
- Urinalysis after ejaculation
- Taking a tissue sample from your testicles
- Anti-sperm immune cells testing
Depending on the laboratory and hospital, the normal range for Semen Analysis may vary. Please discuss with your doctor any questions you may have about your test results.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: November 5, 2018 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019