Semen analysis: How To Go About It

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Semen analysis is the single most important test of male fertility. It is proper to do a semen analysis early on in the evaluation of an infertile couple. To put a woman through medical procedures and tests without knowing the status of her partner’s semen, is unacceptable. In 50% of cases of infertility the male factor is the cause for childlessness.

In normal males, once puberty sets in, and semen starts getting produced, fertility remains viable throughout life. During sex, men ejaculate semen which contains the male sex cells or sperm. After intercourse, the sperm travel to the egg through the female reproductive tract, typically causing fertilisation to occur in the Fallopian tubes. Infertility may be caused by low sperm count or defective sperm.

The thought of having to collect a semen sample for analysis may be uncomfortable ethically and emotionally for your mate. It might help him to understand before hand the right way to go about it.

Preparing for the test-
During the week before the test make sure your mate avoids hot tubs, saunas, being near hot grills, laptops and the like. Exposures to high heat can cause premature sperm death and will impact his motility results. If he has had prolonged exposures to high heat as in hot tub use, long periods of sitting, occupational heat exposures, laptops or a fever over 100 degrees in the past three months, it is worth mentioning this fact to the doctor, as sperm takes up to 10 weeks to regenerate.

As an added precaution he should avoid alcohol, caffeine, two to five days before the test and stop taking any herbal medications or hormones. It would be best to inform the doctor of any regular medication that he may be on.

Care must be taken in the actual collection of the sample of semen. A sterile collection container must be obtained from the testing centre for collecting the sample. The best sample would be after 72 hours of abstinence from sex. There is no need to abstain for a longer time than that.

The best way to obtain a sample is through masturbation. The entire ejaculate must be collected into the sterile collection container. It is very important to collect the entire sample, especially the first part of the ejaculate as it contains most of the sperm. There should be no use of any lubricants, lotions, gels, etc for the collection of the sample as these items will alter the sample.

If collection by masturbation is not preferred, a special sterile collection condom may be used to collect the sample during normal sex. It is important that the whole sample be contained within the condom. The filled condom must be tied up tightly with the provided twist tie and then placed in the sterile collection container. No attempt should be made to remove sample from condom.

As semen is very sensitive the specimen must be kept at room temperature and promptly brought to the lab within 30-40 minutes. Samples can be adversely affected by heat, air-conditioning and extreme temperatures. It is best to keep the sample near body temperature on the way to the lab and this can be achieved by simply placing sample cup in between the legs.

Typically, semen analysis is performed by a technician who will literally take a drop of the sample, place it on a microscope slide and analyze it under a microscope. A number of factors including technician experience, method used and equipment can impact the quality of the results.

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