A semen analysis checks for the quality and health of a man’s sperm. It often helps to diagnose infertility in men. This test also indicates the chance of success for a vasectomy. In this article, you will learn about the procedure, preparation, and the normal results for semen.
What is semen analysis?
Semen analysis is a test of the sperm and semen of a man. It is also called sperm count, male fertility test, or seminal fluid test. This test helps to determine and observe the essential factors of sperm health of a man includes:
- The amount of sperm
- The shape of the sperm
- The motility or movement of the sperm
Semen is a thick fluid that originates from the men’s penis at ejaculation during sexual activity. Semen includes sperm, which are male reproductive cells. These cells possess a unique and definite shape with a head and tail. The head contains the genetic material required to fertilize a woman’s egg and the tail helps transport it into the reproductive system of a woman to get into the egg and fertilize it. Certain fluids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins work as the energy providing to the sperm to reach the egg.
Why do you need a semen analysis?
A doctor recommends semen analysis if you and your partner find difficulty becoming pregnant. Men and women may have problems, however, the trouble with male fertility can have a greater influence as much as about half of the possible situations of infertility. This test helps a doctor to check if a man is infertile. Male infertility develops due to low sperm count or sperm dysfunction.
Men have a vasectomy when going for semen analysis to ensure no amount of sperm is present in their semen. A vasectomy is a type of birth control that stops sperm from coming out during ejaculation. During a vasectomy, tubes that transfer sperm from the testicles to the penis are disconnected and sealed. After conducting a vasectomy, healthcare providers mostly suggest that men can go for semen analysis for at least a month for up to three, which helps to confirm whether the sperm is not in your semen.
Preparations for semen analysis
A healthcare provider will inform you about the preparations required for semen analysis. Following are the guidelines that you can consider to get accurate test results:
- Keep away from ejaculation (through sexual activity or masturbation) for at least 24 to 72 hours before the test, which helps to ensure your sperm count is at their peak level.
- Stop taking alcohol, drugs like cocaine, and caffeine about two to five days before the test.
- Avoid taking any herbal medications before discussing them with a doctor.
- Do not take any hormone medications as prescribed by your doctor.
What is the procedure for semen analysis?
A healthcare provider will ask for your semen sample for the semen analysis. A man generally masturbates to develop a semen sample, which is the recommended method due to getting a clean sample. As sperm count may change from day to day, doctors may ask you to give more than one sample with the difference in time period being about a few weeks.
While collecting your sample, avoid any lubricants because they may influence the movement of sperm. Sometimes you may also prepare your semen sample at home. If you collect the sample at home, you may need to store it at room temperature and deliver it to your healthcare providers within at least 1 hour. Some doctors may also suggest a special condom that takes your semen during sexual activity.
Two of the leading factors help to give accurate sample testing. One is that your semen sample should be kept at room temperature. The test results may indicate false or inaccurate if it receives a very hot or cold temperature. Second, is the delivery of the semen sample to the laboratory within 30 to 60 minutes after coming out from the body.
Normal Test Results
The test results may be received within 24 hours to one week after your semen sample. It may also vary among laboratories. Many factors are considered when a healthcare provider analyzes your test result.
Following are the normal value of the essential terms that your doctor will consider deeply, including
About higher than 50 percent of sperm are in normal and healthy shape. If more than 50 percent of sperm are abnormal in shape, it decreases fertility. Your lab care may find the presence of abnormalities in the head, tail, or midsection of a sperm. There is also a chance that shows the immaturity of the sperm, which cannot help in the fertilization process of an egg.
The normal value for the sperm count lies between 20 million to 200 million. It is also called sperm density. Lower than normal may lead to more trouble.
The recommended pH lies between 7.3 to 7.8. If you have a higher pH than 7.8, it shows you have an infection. A low value of 7.3 may indicate that the specimen used for sample collecting is contaminated or not cleaned or the man’s ejaculatory ducts are closed or blocked.
Movement of Sperm
Sperm movement or motility is essential for fertilization because sperm has to travel to fertilize an egg. Higher than 50 percent of sperm should move normally after an hour of ejaculation. There is a system that observes sperm movement by using a scale of 0 to 4. A scale of zero indicates no motion, while sperm is in motion if the score shows 3 or 4.
The semen generally has a white to gray color with opalescent. If the semen contains blood, its color would be a red-brown tint. A yellow tint might show diseases like jaundice or develop from the side effects of medication.
The time needed by semen before liquefaction is about 15 to 30 minutes. Semen is a thick fluid initially and then gradually liquefies. It allows sperm to move freely. You may have fertility issues if the semen loses its ability to liquefy within 15 to 30 minutes.
The normal range for semen volume should be above 2 milliliters. If you have low semen volume, it may show a low sperm count to reach and fertilize an egg. Higher semen volume may also be associated with dilution of sperm count.
It is the percentage of live sperm that is present in the semen sample.
White blood cells
The presence of white blood cells (WBC) indicates the signs and symptoms of infection or inflammation.
A healthcare provider will compare the properties of your semen to the recommended values. Your semen should have
- An active sperm having a single round head and tail
- pH that does not lead to show the high acid amount
- A particular amount of sperm
- Ability to convert to liquid in a short period of time that helps to reach into the reproductive system of a woman.
A post-vasectomy semen analysis helps to observe if the semen has sperm.
- No sperm or few non-moving sperms indicate a normal test result
- Moving sperm or a high amount of non-moving sperm show an abnormal test result.
What do abnormal test results indicate?
Abnormal results show that you have a low chance of getting a woman pregnant. A semen analysis is not the only way to analyze and monitor the infertility of a male. Many other tests may consider diagnosing these conditions, including
- Hormonal balance
- Blockages that stop the body from giving out sperm
- Defects in the gene
- Low sperm count
- Having diseases like diabetes
- Side effects of medicines
A healthcare provider may also ask you to order these tests if you have abnormal test results for semen analysis, which include:
- Urinalysis after ejaculation
- Hormone testing
- Genetic testing
- Collecting a tissue sample from your testicles
What factors may affect the test result?
There are possible factors that may lead to influence the test result, such as:
- Stress or illness while collecting the sample
- Semen comes in contact with a birth-controlling device
- Technician fault
- Sample contamination
If your semen analysis results do not lie inside the normal range and there is no error in a specimen, healthcare providers may think about substances. These are the things that influence the semen analysis include:
- Taking alcohol
- Use of condoms that contains a lubricant
- Few prescribed medications, including testosterone, anabolic steroids, opiates, or marijuana
- Taking drugs for pleasure or other activities
A semen analysis is a laboratory test that helps to determine sperm count, movement, volume, and other factors. The test is known as a fertility test for men or to ensure the success of vasectomy. A healthcare provider will recommend specific guidelines to get your clean semen sample. If you receive abnormal results, it often indicates that further testing is required. A doctor may ask you to reorder the test to clear your test results. You can schedule an online appointment with a healthcare provider if you have your test results and want to discuss them.