This test will be recommended by your GP if you and your partner are having difficulty conceiving.
Your sperm will be assessed for quantity and quality.
Your GP will inform you on the local procedures available - for example, some surgeries require you to hand the sample in yourself, but some will refer you to collect the sample in a specialised laboratory.
What will affect the result?
There are a number of factors that can affect your sperm analysis.
If the first sample is abnormal, you will usually be advised to repeat the collection to confirm the results.
Below are factors which should be considered:
- You must have been abstinent from sex or masturbation for at least three days
- The semen must be analysed rapidly - usually the laboratory has to receive the sample within one hour
- It is recommended to avoid hot baths and tight underwear or clothes preceding the sperm collection - it is thought that the sperm count can become reduced if the testes are not kept cool
- Smoking and illicit drugs - all doctors would advise you to stop these as soon as possible
- Alcohol - it is believed that your sperm count can be affected if you drink more than 16 units a week
- Medication - some prescribed drugs can affect your sperm sample so if you are taking regular medication, please discuss this with your GP or specialist
Normal sperm values
Normal criteria vary from one laboratory to another so if you are concerned regarding your results, please contact your GP or specialist.
Below are the values recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO):
- Ejaculation volume: between 2 and 5 ml
- Sperm concentration: above 20 million / ml sperm
- Sperm motility : above 50% of mobile sperm
- Normal forms: greater than 50% of normal sperm
- Normal acidity rates: pH between 7.2 and 7.8
Abnormal sperm counts
Each laboratory will use different numerical normal ranges but some useful definitions are listed below:
- Oligospermia: sperm concentration is slightly below normal
- Azoospermia: sperm concentration well below normal
- Asthenospermia: the number of normal mobile sperm is below 60%
- Teratospermia: there is more than 50% of abnormal sperm
- Aspermia: complete absence of sperm
Other more detailed tests may be organised by your GP or specialist. These may include:
- Hormone blood tests such as testosterone levels
- More specialised genetic blood tests to look for chromosome abnormalities causing infertility
- An ultrasound of the genital tract and testes