Semen Analysis

semen analysis concludes the quantity of semen a particular person generates. It also helps in ascertaining the sperm count and their quality in a sample of semen.

This examination is generally one of the 1st performed for finding out if a male has an issue in fathering a baby and confronted with infertility. Nearly one-third of the couples confronted with infertility are found to be having issues with the man’s sperms or semen.

The examinations that are performed while doing the semen analysis are:

  • Volume: It is an examination that signifies the volume of semen in one ejaculation.
  • Sperm Count: The presence of sperm is counted in one millimeter (ml) of semen taken from one ejaculation.
  • Liquefaction: At the ejaculation time, semen appears like a thick gel and turns liquid in about 20 minutes after the ejaculation. It is observed how much time it takes in transforming into a liquid.
  • Sperm morphology. It is a calculation of the sperm percentage that are found having a normal shape.
  • Sperm Motility: This is a computation of the sperm percentage that may move ahead usually.  The sperm count that tends to moving forward in a certain quantity of semen may also be calculated.  This is known as motile density.
  • pH:  It is an semen examination of having the acidic (low pH) and alkali (high pH) character.
  • White blood cell count: Usually the semen does not contain white blood cells.
  • Fructose levels:  In this examination, semen is tested for having the sugar (fructose) quantity. The fructose is necessary for providing energy to the sperm living in the semen.

Why is Semen Analysis performed?

A semen analysis is performed for finding out:

  • Whether a male is having any reproductive issue, which may be rendering him infertile.
  • Whether the vasectomy performed on him is successful or not
  • If the vasectomy reversal procedure performed on him is successful or not.

Preparing yourself for the Semen Analysis

You may be advised to refrain from indulging in any sexual activity (copulation) for about 2 – 5 days that may cause ejaculation prior to performing the analysis. The idea is to ensure that your sperm count is the highest when you submit a semen sample for analysis. By doing this, the test becomes more trustworthy.

Barring those 2-to-5-day sexual abstinence just prior to your semen analysis, you are advised to indulge in sexual activity frequently for about 1 or two weeks prior to the test. A longer abstinence from sex may cause your sperms less active.

Apart from this, stay away from drinking alcohol for some days, prior to going in for the analysis.

Ensure that your doctor knows about all the prescribed or non-prescribed medicines and the herbal supplements you have been taking.

How is the Test performed?

For performing the semen analysis, you are required to ejaculate a semen sample into a clean and sterilized sample cup. You may like doing this in a private room or in the cloakroom of the laboratory or the Clinic. In case you are living in the surroundings of the testing laboratory, you may be allowed to produce the semen sample at home and taking it to the laboratory soon after for analysis.

The normal manner for collecting semen is by most common way to collect semen is by stimulating your genitals (masturbation), wherein you guide the semen into a clean and sterilized sample cup. You are not permitted to use a lubricant.

The semen sample may also be collected by indulging in copulation with your female partner or spouse and withdrawing your penis from the vagina just prior to ejaculation. The ejaculate is collected in a clean and sterilized sample cup. This process is useful after the vasectomy procedure for finding out the sperm presence. Other ways are useful if you are being examined for infertility.

You may also save a semen sample by performing a condom-worn sex. A usual condom, at times, is used by washing it well prior to the use. This may help in removing the lubricant or powder for preventing the sperm getting killed by these substances.

You may also be provided a special condom that does not contain any material on it that may cause spermicide (killing of sperm).  Subsequent to your ejaculation, you are advised to remove the condom carefully from your penis. Tie the open part of the condom by giving a knot and put the semen sample in a sealable container if the condom bursts or leaks.

In case your beliefs are against any of the mentioned methods, consult your doctor on other manners of getting a semen sample.

If you decide the semen sample collection at home, the semen sample must be handed over to the laboratory soon after the collection. Keep the semen sample away from direct sunlight. And, do not allow it to get hot or cold. In case of a cold day, take the sample container close to your body.  This helps in keeping it parallel to the body temperature. Keeping the sample in a refrigerator is not advised.

Your semen sample is variable from one day to another day, depending on your diet and physical activities. Hence, two or more samples are examined within a three months’ time. This helps in determining the accurate analysis.

In case a semen analysis is performed to know the success of vasectomy procedure, it is generally performed six weeks after the vasectomy procedure.

How the test feels

While collecting a semen sample, you do not feel any discomfort. At times, some self-conscious people may feel embarrassed about the process of collecting it.

Risks

There are, actually, no risks linked to the semen sample collection or its process.  .

Results

A semen analysis quantifies the semen amount a male produces. Apart from this, it analyses the presence of sperms, their count and quality in the sample. The outcomes of the semen analysis are generally obtainable in a day. The values for normal results are variable from one lab to another.

Semen analysis Reading Values
Semen volume Standard: 2 to 5 ml (milliliters) or (0.002 to 0.005 L in international system of units) in one ejaculation
Unusual: The presence of unusually high or low semen. This, at times, may cause issues with the man’s fertility.
Liquefaction time Standard: 20 to 30 minutes after the sample collection
Unusual: In case the liquefaction time takes longer than the standard, this is a warning signal for the presence of infection.
Sperm count Standard: Around 20 million sperms in one Ml (milliliter) or more

Zero sperm presence per milliliter in case the male has undergone a vasectomy

Unusual: Presence of low sperm count. This indicates infertility. Presence of low sperm count is not the indication that the concerned male may not be able to father a baby. There are instances when males having a sperm count of less than a million have become fathers.
Sperm Morphology (shape) Standard: 30% or more sperm having normal shape.

Kruger criterion: 14% or more sperm having a normal shape.

Unusual: Sperm are found to be unusual in many ways – pinheaded (tiny head), having two tails, a shorter tail, rounder head, rather than of the oval head etc. Sperm having an unusual morphology are unable to move forward or find difficulty in penetrating an egg. A certain percentage of unusual sperm is found in every usual semen sample. But an unusually high percentage of abnormal sperm in a male makes it difficult for him in fathering a baby.
Sperm motility Standard: 50% or more sperm prove forwarding movement, even after 1 hour.
Unusual: Sperm should be swimming (moving) forward all through the cervical mucus for reaching an egg. In case there is a high %age of sperm unable to move or swim forward, it becomes difficult for the intending male in fathering a baby.
Semen pH Standard: Semen having a pH between 7.1 and 8.0
Unusual: An unusually low or high semen pH may kill sperm cells or harm their ability to move forwardly or affect egg penetration.
White blood cells Standard:  Absence of bacteria and white blood cells.
Unusual: Presence of bacteria or a high amount of white blood cells. They are indications of an infection.

Some medical conditions are associated with an absent sperm count or low sperm count. Such conditions may include Testicle atrophy (shrinking) or mumps, Klineflter Syndrome, Varicocele, testicles exposed to radiation and orchitis.

In case a higher %age of unusually shaped sperm or low sperm count is found, certain other hormonal examinations are also required.

Such hormonal examinations may comprise:

A biopsy (small sample) of your testicles may require examination if the motility and the sperm count are exceptionally low.

What may affect the Test

You may be unable to undergo the test, or the test results may not be useful in case:

You have been taking medications like Tagamet (cimetidine), female or male hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and other chemotherapy medications like nitrofurantoin and sulfasalazine.

If you have been taking marijuana, cocaine, alcohol or tobacco (chewing or smoking).

If you are using herbal medications, like Echinacea in high quantity or St. John’s wort.

Your semen has the tendency of getting cold. In case your semen sample gets unusually cold, the sperm in it will have lower motility value.

Exposure to chemicals, like pesticides or spermicides or radiations and prolonged heat exposure may cause irregularities in the semen analysis.

If your semen sample is not complete meaning if your semen sample is obtained by other means rather than through masturbation.

In case you have not ejaculated for many days.  This affects the ejaculated semen sample volume.

Points to Ponder

A home examination kit for checking the sperm count should be approved by a recognized medical body. This examination helps in ascertaining if a particular male is having fertility issues.

The semen sample obtained at home must be provided to the laboratory soon after its collection. Do not expose the semen sample to direct sunlight. Also, avoid getting it hot or cold. While going in for the analysis on a cold day, keep the semen sample close to your body while carrying it to the laboratory. This helps in keeping the sample’s temperature parallel to that of your body. Never ever refrigerate the sample of semen.

If the semen contains sperm after undergoing vasectomy, it may mean that the surgery is not carried out successfully. In such cases, some other kind of birth controlling becomes necessary for preventing pregnancy. Soon after undergoing the vasectomy, there is a possibility of a small number of sperms. But later than that, there ought not to be the presence of sperm in a semen sample.

A male whose mother, while he was in her womb, used DES (diethylstilbestrol) runs a high risk of his inability to father a baby (meaning confronted with infertility).

Some more tests relating to the hormonal levels may also be helpful while analyzing semen. They are:

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

Testosterone

Prolactin

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

Some other examinations like the presence of anti-body cells and sperm penetration test are also helpful while diagnosing fertility issues in a male’s semen.

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