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Not many guys ever think that they will have to get their little swimmers tested to see how they perform. Male infertility is now a much larger issue than it was years ago. The semen or sperm analysis is one of the first tests for the male to see how fertile he is. Semen analysis terminology can be a bit confusing at first but if you can learn the basics of what’s involved in the semen analysis and evaluation, you can decipher the reports and understand your fertility specialist a bit better.
What is a semen analysis?
Simply put, a semen analysis measures the amount of semen that is produced by a man and determines the quantity and quality of sperm in the semen sample taken.
A semen analysis is usually one of the first tests done since it’s a simple procedure (a little embarrassing the first time but non the less, simple!) and can give a lot of information. Research shows that sperm issues affect more than one-third of the couples who are infertile.
A standard semen analysis will test for the following:
- Volume. Measures how much semen is in one ejaculation.
- Liquefaction time. Liquefaction time measures the time it takes for the semen to liquefy.
- Sperm count. The number of sperm present per milliliter (mL) of semen in one ejaculation.
- Sperm morphology. This is a measure of sperm that have a normal shape.
- Sperm motility. This is a measure of sperm that can move forward normally.
- pH. This is a measure of the acidity (low pH) or alkalinity (high pH) of the semen.
- White blood cell count. White blood cells are not commonly found in semen.
- Fructose level. Measures the amount of fructose in semen.
Why is the semen analysis done?
There are a few reasons why a semen analysis is done. One of the most common reasons is when there is suspicion that the male has fertility issues. A semen analysis can also be done to check if a vasectomy has been successful or to see if a vasectomy reversal has been successful.
How do I get ready for a semen analysis
Getting ready for a semen analysis is pretty basic. You are usually asked to avoid sexual activity that ends in ejaculation for 2 to 5 days before the semen analysis and evaluation. This is pretty standard practice for a semen analysis and ensures that your semen count is at its highest for the evaluation. On the other hand, it’s not good to go too long without ejaculation, for example 1-2 weeks. This could alter your results as you might have inactive sperm. Stick with the 2-5 day scenario and you should be okay. For some, 2 days is optimal and for others, 5 days is better. I know guys…even going one day is tough but hang in there!
How is the semen analysis done?
The primary purpose of a semen analysis is to get a full and clean sample of a guys sperm. This is most often done in a doctor’s office such as a urologist or a male fertility specialist. You will usually be left in a room where you will be left a semen sample cup as well as a sheet with some information you will have to fill out after you ejaculate into the cup. If you are lucky, you might have a few magazines to browse through! If not, see if your wife or partner can join you to “help” out. Whatever you do, make sure you get the whole ejaculation in the cup that is provided so you can get the best results possible. If you miss the cup, let the doctor or specialist know.
There are also times when you can collect semen at home and bring it in to the doctor in a special container but giving a fresh semen sample at the doctor’s office is recommended. When done at home, you will need to get the semen sample to the doctor within one hour. Consult with your doctor on all of your options.
Semen samples vary from day to day so you might need to give multiple samples over a 3 month period to get accurate readings.
Are there any risks from doing a semen analysis?
What results will I get from the semen analysis?
A semen analysis and evaluation will give you measurements on the amount of semen a man produces, will determine the number of sperm present and also check for the quality of the sperm. Each lab might be a bit different but they usually all seek the same information.
What factors can affect the semen analysis?
There are several factors that can affect the semen analysis results.
- Some medications including hormone and chemotherapy medications
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana
- The temperature of the semen sample
- Radiation, chemicals and other toxins
- Too long or too short of time between ejaculations
- Stress and poor lifestyle choices
If your semen analysis and evaluation comes back and shows you have low sperm, low motility or a high percentage of abnormal sperm, additional testing might been needed to help diagnose your infertility. Some of the other tests include testing hormone levels such as testosterone, LH or luteinizing hormone, FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone and prolactin. Several semen analysis and hormone tests might be needed over a 3 month to 1 year period to get the best results.
Just remember, knowledge is power. It’s impossible to know if you have sperm issues unless you get tested. There is no way of just “knowing”. If you have concerns, make an appointment. It’s a simple and painless test that can help get you to the end product quicker…and that end product is pregnancy.