Semen Analysis: What The Results Indicate

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What does the analysis indicate?
For conception to take place, sperm must swim hard, penetrate the egg, and transport viable genetic material. A semen test will measure-
1. Sperm count or concentration (how many sperm there are)
2. Sperm motility (how many of them swim)
3. Semen volume (how much semen is made).
More comprehensive analysis will also measure
Sperm morphology (the shape of sperm)
Liquefaction time (semen starts out viscous and over time should become watery)
pH of semen (how acidic it is) as all these factors impact fertility.

The results of the test will mention the following:

Volume:  Normal volume ranges from 1.5 to 5.0 milliliters (a milliliter is roughly equal to a teaspoon). A very low volume indicates that the seminal vesicles may not be making enough fluid or that the ejaculatory ducts may be blocked. It may also indicate a problem with the prostate gland. Retrograde ejaculation in which the semen goes into the bladder instead of out of the body sometimes causes low volume.

Sperm count: This tells the number of sperm in the semen sample.  A normal sperm count may be from 40 million to 300 million per milliliter. Counts below 10 million are considered poor; counts of 20 million or more may be fine if motility and morphology are normal.
Men with a low sperm count may still be fertile if the sperm is of “high quality.”  Still, having a low sperm count may indicate a problem in the body that may warrant further testing and treatment.

Sperm motility: Sperm motility is how the sperm swims, wiggles or fights to get through the cervix, uterus, and Fallopian tubes to the egg.  Normal sperm motility is when 50 percent of the sperm are moving. The lab tech will check to see how the sperm move forward, how fast, and if the sperm move in a straight line.

Morphology: Sperm shape can offer clues to healthy development of the sex cells. If the sperm is misshapen, it may indicate the sperm was exposed to chemicals or toxins or has other problems. At least 30% of cells should be of normal shape according to the WHO (World Health Organisation).
The Kruger morphology test examines the shape and size of the sperm head. Normal results are when 14% or more of the sperm have normal shaped heads. Men with less than 4% of normal shaped sperm may have a significant infertility problem.

Liquefaction: Normal semen which is liquid at ejaculation immediately coagulates into a pearly gel that liquefies within 20 minutes. Failure to coagulate and then liquefy may indicate a problem with the seminal vesicles, as would increased thickness or the presence of white blood cells.

Seminal Fructose: If no sperm are present, the semen will be tested for seminal fructose, normally produced by the seminal vesicles. If no fructose is present, congenital absence of the vas deferens or seminal vesicles or obstruction of the ejaculatory duct may be the cause.

Cultures: The technician may test the semen  for the presence of any STD's or other bacteria if any infection is suspected.

Sperm DNA testing: Over the past few years, a number of tests have been developed that more specifically evaluate the DNA content of sperm which may be more informative than just the semen analysis alone.

If the semen analysis or one of the DNA tests is abnormal, the doctor will try to find a cause and possible treatment to improve the sperm quality. Occasionally, no cause or treatment may found, but many of these cases can still be helped with IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Results of the semen analysis combined with a man’s medical history, physical examination and other tests, allows the doctor to make a diagnosis or at least suggest treatment to help increase the chance of pregnancy.

Sometimes the fertility treatment is simple other times complex, relying on fertility treatments like male fertility drugs to help the sperm get to the egg for fertilization. But no matter what’s involved, the information obtained from the semen analysis will help your male partner father his own genetic children.

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