Semen is the whitish sperm-containing fluid secreted by the male during ejaculation. The semen analysis procedure analyzes the quality of the sperm including the number, shape and the mobility of sperms in the semen sample. Generally, two to three separate tests are performed and the results are averaged before the doctors can come to a conclusion about the health of the semen sample.
When Is Semen Analysis Needed?
A semen analysis is generally conducted if a couple has been facing problems with getting pregnant. The test helps to diagnose whether the man is able to father a child or not, and it also
helps in determining the probable causes of infertility (including low number of sperm per milliliter of semen) along with any dysfunction in the sperm.
Moreover, this analysis helps in determining whether the vasectomy procedure as a means of birth control has been successful. In vasectomy, the tubes that send the sperms from the testicles to the penis are cut and sealed, resulting in no sperms in the semen. Doctors generally recommend semen analysis to rule out the possibility of sperms being present in the sample.
What Preparations Are Required for a Semen Analysis Procedure?
If your doctor has recommended you to undergo semen analysis, it is better to follow the following instructions for best results.
- The semen sample should be about 24-72 hours old, which means there should be no ejaculation for 1-3 days before the test.
- Also intake of alcohol, caffeine products and use of recreational drugs like cocaine and marijuana should be avoided 2-5 days before the test.
- The use of herbal medications like St. John’s Wort and Echinacea should be stopped before the analysis.
- The patient needs to discuss his medical history and use of any medications with the doctor before the procedure.
- Along with all these precautions, the patient should also avoid the use of hormonal medications for best results.
How Are Semen Analysis Procedures Performed?
The first and most vital step of this procedure is to collect semen. This can be done by ejaculation in a clean sample collection cup, either in a doctor's clinic or if you live close by, at home. Then you doctor will do the analysis to determine the health condition of your sperm.
1. How to Collect Semen
There many ways of collect semen; however, if any of them make you uncomfortable, talk with your doctor about other ways.
- The most common way of semen collection is by masturbation. The semen is directed into a clean cup. However, do not use lubricants, as they may contaminate or kill the sperms in the sample.
- Another method of semen collection is by sex without ejaculation. Withdraw the penis just before ejaculating and collect the sample in a clean cup. This method is generally used if you are testing for presence of sperm after vasectomy procedures. However, if the purpose is to test for infertility, making use of other ways to collect semen sample is recommended.
- You can also collect a sample by having sex with the help of a condom. Make sure the condom is washed well before use and contains no traces of spermicide (powders or lubricants) that can kill the sperm cells. Sometimes, the clinic also provides with clean condoms free of any spermicides for sample collection. After ejaculating in the condom, carefully remove the condom. Tie a knot at the open end of the condom and place it in the sample cup with a seal, in case the condom leaks.
2. The Procedures Needed
- The sample needs to be collected separately 2-3 times within 3 months to determine the exact nature and quality of your semen sample.
- To determine whether the vasectomy has been successful, semen analysis is usually carried out after 6 weeks of the operation.
3. Precautions If You Collect Semen at Home
If you are going to collect the sample at home, ensure that it reaches the clinic within one hour of ejaculation. In the meanwhile, do not refrigerate the sample and avoid direct sunlight. Keep it as close to body temperature as possible to avoid damage to the sample. Change in the temperature of the semen sample can give inaccurate readings.
What Are the Results of Semen Analysis Procedure?
The procedure determines the amount and quality of semen produced by a man. The results of this test are available within a day and the normal values depend on each lab and the techniques involved.
- The ejaculated semen volume should be between 2-5 milliliters in a normal condition. Any value above or below this threshold would be abnormal and could lead to infertility.
- If the semen liquefies within 20 to 30 minutes after ejaculation, it is a normal condition. Longer liquefaction times could be a sign of infection in the male.
- The semen sample should be free of any white blood cells or bacteria. Any presence of the same could be a sign of infection.
- Normally, the sperm count is anywhere from 20 to 100 million sperms per ml of semen. In case of a vasectomy procedure, there should be no sperms in the semen sample. A lower sperm count could be a cause of infertility in males. However, there are cases, where a male with one million sperm count could father a child.
- The pH levels of the semen sample should be between 7.1 and 8. A high or low pH value can affect the motility and function of the sperm.
- If more than 30 % of the sperms in the semen sample are of a normal shape, it rules out the problem of infertility. Abnormal sperms could be double headed or double tailed or have no tail. These sperms are not able to penetrate an egg. A normal semen sample may contain some abnormally shaped sperms, but a higher percentage of them could be a cause for infertility.
- Also 50 % of sperms in the sample should show a forward movement even after one hour of collection. If the sperm can't move in the forward direction to reach the egg, a man may find it difficult to father a child.