What Is Semen Analysis?
Semen analysis is a sperm count test that checks the health of a man’s sperm. Semen is the fluid that contains sperm; a semen analysis checks three main factors of sperm health:
- The amount of sperm
- The shape of the sperm
- The mobility of the sperm which is the sperm movement
In general, doctors will run two to three separate sperm analysis to have a full picture of the sperm’s health. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) recommends that sperm analysis should be conducted at least one week over the course of two or three months. For the fact that sperm counts can be various every day. However, taking an average of the sperm samples will give the most precise results.
Why undergoing a Semen Analysis?
Test for male infertility
In general, when couples are having trouble conceiving a baby, a semen analysis is recommended. The doctor will be able to make sure if the male partner is having any infertility problem. In addition, the analysis will confirm if there is low sperm count as this may be the main cause of infertility.
Test for vasectomy success
Men who have infertility problems should undergo a vasectomy test to make sure that they do not have any sperm in their semen. During the vasectomy test, tubes that send sperm from the testicles to the penis are being cut and sealed as a form of birth control permanently. After the test, the doctors usually recommend men to run a sperm analysis at least once per month for the period of three months to make sure that the sperm does not exist anymore in the semen.
What are the Preparations for Semen Analysis?
Doctors will decide if the patients need to do in preparation for the semen analysis. In general, it is highly recommended to follow the following instructions in order to get the most precise results:
- Avoiding ejaculation for 1 day to 3 days before conducting the test
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine for two to five days
- Avoid drinking any herbal medications
- Avoiding any hormone medications
How is Semen Analysis conducted?
In order to conduct a semen analysis, a patient should provide the doctor with a semen sample and there are four main methods to get a semen sample:
- Having sex with a condom
- Having sex with withdrawal before ejaculation
- Ejaculating stimulated by electricity
Masturbation is considered as the most preferred way that gives a clean sample.
Hot to Get a Clean Sample?
There are two major factors that are highly important in order to get a clean sample. Firstly, the semen needs to be maintained at a body temperature because if it gets too warm or too cold, that would affect the results. Secondly, the semen has to be delivered to the testing clinic or hospital within half an hour to one hour maximum of leaving the body.
There are certain factors that can have negative effects on the test such as:
- Semen coming into contact with spermicide
- Conducting the test while the patient is ill or stressed
- Possible lab technician error
- Contamination of the sample
Testing semen at home
Home semen tests can be an option by putting into consideration that they check the sperm count only. Such tests do not analyze sperm mobility or shape and the results are available, in general, withing only 10 minutes. Naturally, a normal sperm count (more than 20 million sperm per one milliliter of semen), on the other hand, a home test does not refer to a man’s infertility as it does not evaluate all the causes of male infertility.
What are Normal Results?
After the semen is collected, the results will be ready within one day to a maximum of one week, depending on the laboratory. There are many factors when reviewing sperm analysis test results. For example, the vasectomy checks the presence of sperm however the analysis for fertility problems needs deeper analysis. The doctors will take each of the following results into consideration:
To confirm that there is a normal result for the sperm shape, around 50 percent of sperm need to be normally shaped. If a patient has more than 50 percent of sperm with abnormalities, this will reduce his fertility.
More than 50 percent of sperm must move in a normal way after one hour of ejaculation in order to confirm a normal result. Sperm mobility is highly important because the sperm has to make a journey to fertilize an egg.
The normal level of a pH should range between 7.2 and 7.8 in order to record a normal result. If the pH level is higher than 8.0 this means that the donor could have an infection. On the other hand, if the pH level is less than 7.0 means that the specimen is contaminated or the ejaculatory are blocked.
In natural cases, the volume of semen has to be more than 2 milliliters. Because a low semen volume might refer to a low amount of sperm that could fertilize an egg.
Semen liquefies usually take around 15 to 30 minutes. However, sometimes semen is thick, its ability to liquefy helps the sperm to move. On the other hand, fertility could be suspected if semen does not liquefy in a maximum of 30 minutes.
The sperm count in a normal semen analysis has to be between 20 million to more than 200 million.
The appearance should have the color of white to gray. Semen with a red-brown tint could mean that it contains blood while a yellow tint could refer to a side effect of a certain medication.
What do Abnormal Results Indicate?
Abnormal sperm indicates that there is a problem preventing the sperm from traveling and fertilizing an egg. These are the factors that abnormal results indicate:
- Infertility problems
- Some kind of infection
- Abnormal imbalance
- Certain disease such as diabetes
- Gene defects
- Exposure to any kind of radiation