If a couple is experiencing difficulty conceiving, it makes sense to check the state of your fertility health. Males account for 40% of fertility problems, females account for 40% and the other 20% may be a combination of both partners!
There are many reasons why a man may be having fertility problems. Conducting a sperm analysis is an easy and non intrusive way of gathering important fertility information. This test is often the first for a couples evaluation, as it can provide the fastest possible results.
Do not feel embarrassed about consulting a doctor, as they are professionals and deal with these situations on a regular basis! They are only too happy to help!
If you are experiencing any noticeable indications of physical ‘symptoms' as explained on our signs of infertility page, then you must discuss these with your doctor! There may be a more obvious medical explanation contributing to your fertility problems. Conditions such as infections, or varicose (varicose veins inside scrotum) could be reasons why you may be experiencing problems conceiving. These conditions are easily treatable but should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent any further complications.
It may be worth you noting, that if you and your partner are using personal lubricants, you must read about sperm friendly lubricants. Most personal lubricants inhibit the sperm from reaching the egg. Therefore you need to use a specially designed formula of lubricant, made for couples who are trying to conceive!
There are several different options to conduct a sperm analysis-
The test sample is usually collected at the doctors or fertility clinic rooms. You are assured total privacy to provide your sample. You may be able to take a sterile test cup away if you live near by, as to return it within one hour.
Preparing for the test it's very important that you abstain from ejaculation for at least 48 hours beforehand, but no longer than seven days. This is so as to provide the most accurate test result! This guideline is recommended by the World Health Organization.
The sperm analysis should be performed on a minimum of two samples at least seven days apart, as different factors can effect the sperm levels. If necessary re-testing is performed over a period of two - three months.
We would like to add that a good sperm analysis result does not guarantee that a pregnancy will take place. Likewise men who have had a poor sperm analysis result have gone on to father children naturally.
We will explain the terminology of a sperm analysis (the numbers are provided by the World Health Organization as the official guideline).
This is the measurement of how many million sperm there are in each milliliter of seminal fluid. An average sperm concentration is more than 60 million per milliliter. A count of less than 20 million per milliliter is considered a low sperm count or sub fertile (a less than normal capacity for reproduction).
The ability for the sperm to ‘swim’ is also an important factor. In a sample 50% or more of the sperm cells should be rapidly moving (forward progression).
Examination under a microscope determines if the sperm cells meet specific sets of structural criteria. At least 30% of sperm should appear ‘normal’. This exam checks for abnormal head or tail formations, as well as immature germ cells (IGC).
Semen is the fluid that contains the sperm. This is checked for color, any abnormal cells and the amount of time the fluid takes to liquefy after ejaculation (viscosity). Sperm cells account for only 1 - 2% percent of the semen volume, so any problems with this fluid can adversely interfere with the function and movement of the sperm.
Volume of ejaculate
It is important for the whole ejaculate to be collected in the sample cup. Anxiety may cause the man to have a spillage while collecting the fluid. Let the doctor know if this has been the case. A normal ejaculation for a healthy man is 2 to 6 ml. If only a partial sample has been collected, then the correct measurement can not be taken. Either too high or low volume can indicate a problem with the seminal vesicles or the prostate. If the volume of fluid is too high, then it may be too diluted to successfully allow the sperm to travel to the egg. Too low and the sperm can find it difficult to reach the woman’s cervix.
The pH level is also checked to see if it is normal (7.2 - 8). Below this amount (termed as acidic) may be associated with a seminal vesicle abnormality. Above pH 8 (alkaline) may be caused by an infection.
Total motile count
This assessment measures the number of moving sperm in the entire ejaculate. This is calculated by multiplying the volume, by the concentration, by the percentage of motile sperm.
Home sperm analysis test kit
This test is great for guys who would like a ‘general’ first assessment done in the privacy of their own home! SpermCheck Fertility is a sperm analysis kit that's becoming very popular and follows the official guideline measurements depicted by the World Health Organization.
If you have seen a fertility specialist they will most likely also test for these certain factors.
White blood cells
If a sample contains an above normal number of white blood cells, it may indicate an infection, past infection or an inflammation problem.
This test measures the amount of forward movement the sperm is showing. This is rated on a scale from 0 - immobile to 4 - meaning rapid forward progression with vigorous tail movement.
If abnormal morphology of the sperm has been found, then this test allows the specialists to examine the sperms structure with a lot more detail. The sperm head, mid-piece and tail are examined.
In some cases the male may have anti-sperm antibodies. This means that the males body has created an immunological response toward the sperm cells. These antibodies then attack the sperm as the immune system is treating them as a foreign bodies. There are several different reasons why this could occur , including having had surgery or an injury to the testicles.
The sperm is examined to see whether their is any clumping together of the cells (agglutinating). If the sperm is 'stuck' together, they will be prevented from swimming through the woman's cervical mucus, therefore not able to reach the egg. Sperm agglutination can indicate the presence of sperm antibodies or a bacterial infection.
These exams may be performed by the fertility specialist if abnormalities have been found with the sperm analysis, to assist with further investigation.
This test is performed if the sperm analysis shows that less than 30% of the sperm are motile. This examination of the sperm is to determine the presence of ‘live’ sperm.
Fructose is a sugar found in the semen, and this provides energy for the sperm. This analysis is for men who have a low sperm count, or who have a condition called azoospermia (no measurable level of sperm in the semen). This test will determine whether the problem lies with a blockage, or if no sperm is being produced at all.
Post ejaculate urine analysis
This test determines whether all or some of the sperm is ejaculated backwards into the bladder (retroglade ejaculation). The man provides a urine sample immediately after a sperm analysis sample, and this is checked for sperm presence.
In the case of a very low sperm count, no noticeable sperm may be found on the initial test slide, but there may still be sperm cells present in the ejaculate. The rest of the sample is then ‘spun’ and any sperm cells will separate and gather at the bottom of the test tube.
So there you go guys, now you know a little more about what a sperm analysis is about. Be brave and take the initial step to help evaluate your fertility health.
If you have a less than desirable result, your doctor or specialist will discuss all your available options for treatment.
It takes sperm cells at least three months to mature, so certain factors within that time frame may have contributed to a poor analysis result.
As a follow up, read about how to increase sperm count naturally. We encourage all men to follow up with this "check list" (regardless if you are undertaking any further medical treatments or not)!
As different lifestyle, toxin and diet factors can play a large role towards your sexual health, we also have information on these individual topics in more precise detail. These issues are discussed in our fertility problems and fertility diet sections.
Remember, if your doctor does diagnosis a specific reason for poor sperm or semen quality, then at least you will now know what you are dealing with (this is a good thing)! There are excellent medical treatments available these days to help!