What is semen analysis test?
A semen analysis test is often recommended when a couple are facing problems with conceiving and their fertility is in question. While a woman may be required to undergo several tests the man just has to have a semen analysis test. This test focuses on the one important contribution that he makes to a pregnancy – the sperm.
Every male dreads a semen analysis test. Till that moment his manhood and macho image still has some standing. A semen analysis test report can dash that image to the ground, declaring him infertile and less of a man. However, in reality it is not so. That’s just an emotional battle from within. It is a painful humbling of the inflated male ego.
The semen analysis test is recommended when there is an issue with fertility and the doctors suspect that there is some problem with the male partner’s sperm. If a problem is found with the sperm the doctor may recommend assisted fertility treatment for pregnancy. The type of fertility treatment depends on the semen analysis test report and the shortcomings in the sperm. It also depends on the fertility condition of the female partner and if she has any medical problems that could hinder fertility.
The quality of the sperm is very important for fertility. Most of the cases of male infertility are a result of poor quality sperm or a low sperm count. Today for a male to have low sperm count is no big deal. Many men suffer from low sperm count and there are many fertility techniques to help couples get pregnant with a low sperm count.
What is semen analysis test?
Why is the semen given so much importance when it comes to fertility? The semen harbours the sperm which is the most important constituent for having a baby.
The best way to check male fertility is through a semen analysis test. It bares all the facts regarding the sperms and the semen. The semen analysis test gives a detailed report about the various aspects of the semen and the sperm that it contains or does not contain. It analyses the health and quality of the sperm as well as the quantity of sperm that a man has in his semen. It also analyses other aspects of the sperm like its shape, vitality and ability to move.
What does the semen analysis test reveal?
The semen analysis test provides a detailed breakup of the different properties of the semen and the content of sperm in the semen. It checks if the semen properties meet the minimum requirement for fertility and other criteria for which the semen is being tested. Some of the more important semen properties are:
Sperm count: The volume of sperm that is contained in the ejaculate is considered the sperm count. A man should ideally ejaculate between 20 million to 40 million sperm in every millilitre of semen.This is considered a normal sperm count. A count of 15 million and less is considered a low sperm count. A male with a low sperm count cannot impregnate his wife and would need medical fertility assistance.There are a number of fertility treatments that can help a couple with low sperm count to get pregnant.
Sperm motility: The movement ability of the sperm is called the sperm motility. The sperm should have good swimming skills so that it can swim along the long trail from the cervix to the fallopian tubes to meet the female egg. Some percentage of the sperm move round in circles. A small percentage of sperm is able to move in a straight line. This is called progressive motility. There is a certain minimum percentage of sperm with progress motility that is essential to define it as good quality.
Sperm morphology:The shape of the sperm is important for it to move as well as for it to penetrate the female egg. Every male has a certain percentage of abnormally shaped sperm.However, if the percentage of abnormally shaped sperm is high then the person is diagnosed with poor sperm morphology. The sperm abnormalities are usually in the head and the tail. A very small head or a large head or an abnormally shaped head will act as a barrier and prevent the sperm from penetrating the female egg. Tail anomalies’ could include crooked tail, short tail, double tail among others. All these factors hinder the swimming abilities of the sperm.
Volume: The amount of semen that a man expels in a single ejaculate is measured and recorded as the semen volume. Usually the semen volume should be in the range of 2ml to 5 ml this is considered normal. To have a certain number of sperm the semen volume is important. Men with lower volume of semen could be suffering from some kind of blockage in the ejaculatory tract. Drinking plenty of water helps in maintaining a normal quantity of semen.
Liquefaction time: The semen is a thick gel like substance when it is ejaculated. After a while it liquefies and becomes thinner. The semen analysis test makes a note of the time duration taken by the semen for liquefaction. Generally it takes the semen anywhere between 15 minutes to 30 minutes to liquidate. Semen that liquidates within an hour is considered quite normal. Once the semen liquefies the sperm can move easily and start their mission to search for the egg. Semen that does not become liquid even after an hour is a problem. The sperm are going to be stuck in the gel like substance and their movement totally restricted. Fertility with this kind of semen will require assistance.
Vitality: The vitality of the sperm is defined as those sperm that have some movement. Sperm that have no movement are considered to be dead sperm. There is a minimum percentage of sperm with some vitality that is required to enable the sperm to be classified as good quality sperm. If there is a high percentage of the sperm has no vitality it is considered as poor quality sperm.Fertility treatment can help men who have sperm with low vitality.
PH Balance: The pH level of the semen is determined, whether it has a low pH which means it is acidic or a high pH which means that it is alkaline. This measure is important to ascertain if it can survive in the acidic environment of the cervix. If the semen has a low pH value it means that there is a problem with the seminal vesicles like a blockage. A high pH value is an indication of an infection. A pH balance that is out of the normal range could affect the sperm and its ability to penetrate the egg. Hence knowing the pH balance of the semen is important to check if the sperm can fertilise the female egg by itself or if it needs help.
Fructose level: The semen contains a certain amount of fructose. This provides the sperm nourishment and energy. A certain quantity of fructose is required for the sperm to remain healthy. If the semen shows a lack of fructose it means that there is a problem with the seminal vesicles. There may be a blockage or an obstruction that is not allowing the fructose concentrate semen to mix with the rest of the ejaculate.
White blood cells: White blood cells are normally not present in the semen. A presence of white blood cells indicates that there is an infection in the seminal tract.
Colour: In general the semen is a whitish grey colour. This means that your semen colour is normal. The food you eat could affect the colour of your semen. Semen that is yellowish in colour could be due to certain foods like garlic. If the semen is any other colour like reddish brown it means there is a presence of blood in the semen. This condition is called Hematospermia. Greenish yellowish coloured semen could be due to mediation that you are taking. Brown coloured semen means that you have an infection. Any other colours of semen that are unusual could also be due to sexually transmitted diseases or infections or could be due to other problems as well.
When is a semen analysis test required?
There are a few instances when the doctor may prescribe that a man have semen analysis test. As is obvious from the name of the test, it has something to do with the semen and checking various factors of the semen.
A semen analysis test is usually requested in the following situations:
Male infertility: The semen analysis test provides a detailed analysis of the semen including information regarding the sperm content and the quality of the sperm. Poor quality sperm and low sperm count are factors of male infertility. The semen analysis test helps to ascertain if a man is capable of making his partner pregnant.
Vasectomy: The semen analysis test is prescribed after a man has a vasectomy. This tests checks for the presence of sperm in the semen and this determines the success of the vasectomy procedure. The semen analysis test checks to see if there is any sperm content in the semen. If any sperm is found it means that the vasectomy procedure is not successful. Some vasectomy procedures which are done by placing a clamp on the tube or a ring are not very effective and women have reported that they got pregnant after their husbands have had a vasectomy.
Vasectomy reversal: After a vasectomy reversal has been performed, the doctor recommends a semen analysis test to check if the vasectomy reversal procedure was a success. The semen analysis test should show a good quantity of sperm in the semen. If the quantity of sperm is poor then it implies that the vasectomy reversal was not totally successful as the quantity of sperm is less.
Sperm donation: Male sperm donors have to have a semen analysis test to check if their quality of sperm is of the required level. Only once they clear the semen analysis test they can become a sperm donor.
The most common reason for a semen analysis test today is to check for male infertility. Many men have problems with their sperm. When couples are not able to get pregnant doctors recommend a semen analysis test along with a number a fertility tests for the female partner.
Preparation for a semen analysis test
Taking a semen analysis test requires some preparation. It is not difficult but you may feel a bit restricted for a few days. If you do not follow these protocols you may end up with a poor test report. So it is worthwhile making a small sacrifice for at least five days in advance for an accurate semen analysis test report.
Some of the things you have to do or avoid in preparation for a semen analysis test are:
- Avoid ejaculating for 3 to 5 days prior to the semen analysis test. This will ensure that your sperm count is at optimal levels.
- Ensure that you have sexual activity at least a week leading up to your 5 days of abstinence. An active sexual life results in active sperm. A lack of sexual activity can result in inactive sperm, which denotes poor quality sperm.
- No alcohol, caffeine, marijuana or any other drugs like cocaine for at least 5 days prior to the semen analysis test.
- Avoid taking any kind of medication for few days before your semen analysis test. This includes herbal medicines, homeopathic or ayurvedic medication as well as allopathic. Inform your doctor if you are on any regular prescribed medication. Even vitamins and supplements should be stopped if possible.
- Do not take a semen analysis test if you are feeling unwell even if you have a cold or fever. This could lead to an incorrect semen analysis.
Sometimes doctors may recommend 2 or 3 semen analysis tests within a period of 3 months. This comparison study can help to get a more accurate understanding of the semen and sperm.The quantity and quality of the sperm depends on a person’s emotional state of being as well.
Collecting a semen sample
There are a number of ways that the semen sample can be collected. The most common method is to collect the semen in a sample container at the doctor’s office. They have a separate room with some exciting magazines or pictures to help with the male masturbation and ejaculation.
Another way is to collect a semen sample is while having sex. You are required to withdraw just before emaciation and then ejaculate into the sample container. The use of lubricants should be avoided when you have to collect a semen sample as this could affect the semen quality.
A semen sample can also be collected in a condom while having sex. You need to make sure that the condom does not have any lubricant or powder on it. This can be removed by washing the condom before using it. Or you can ask the clinic to provide you with a condom. They have special condoms that do not have any spermicide or substance on it that can kill or affect the sperm.
If the semen sample has been collected at home, then it should be given to the lab within an hour. Another criterion for the home collection is that the semen should be kept at body temperature. Excess heat and cold can affect the sperm. It should also be kept out of direct sunlight. If your semen sample gets cold then your sperm movement may get affected and your test results will reflect low sperm motility.
There are some people who have certain restrictions imposed by their beliefs. In this case it can be discussed with the doctors and a suitable method for collecting the sperm can be devised.They can find a method that does not interfere with the patient’s belief systemand yet provides a good semen sample.
Masturbation in the clinic is considered the best way to give a semen sample. This way the semen remains clean and uncontaminated. Using the sex withdrawal method could have some contamination and the same goes for the condom collection method. Some religious beliefs find masturbation unacceptable and hence other methods have to be used.
Another method that can be used for checking the sperm quality is a sperm retrieval method where the sperm is retrieved directly from the epididymis using a hollow needle syringe.
Are there any risks to a semen analysis test?
There are no risks of having a semen analysis test so to speak. Giving a semen sample is a simple procedure and there is nothing else involved. However, you do run the risk being labelled as infertile if your semen test analysis report is not up to the mark and your sperm is discredited.
Fertility treatment at Medicover after semen analysis test
Once the fertility of a man has been established with his semen analysis test the course of fertility treatment is determined. Men who have a low sperm count but normal sperm motility and sufficient sperm morphology are considered to have sperm which is eligible for IUI treatment. Even if the level of sperm morphology is lower than normal the sperm is considered okay for IUI.
When the sperm motility is very low the IUI treatment is of no use. The sperm, even though they are placed in the uterus, as close as possible to the fallopian tubes, do not have the movement capability for the short distance. In this case doctors recommend IVF treatment.
Men who have very low sperm motility are advised ICSI treatment as there is no other way to get the sperm to fertilise the egg. The ICSI treatment uses an advanced fertility technique in which fertilisation of the egg is performed by injecting the sperm into the egg.
Medicover offers a range of advanced technology specialised fertility treatment to enable men with severe fertility problems to father their own biological children. Medicover Fertility Clinic currently has 7 clinics in north India and provides fertility treatment to people from all over the country.
Q: I have a low sperm count and poor sperm vitality according to my sperm analysis report. What is the best way for us to get pregnant?
A: I would recommend IVF treatment over IUI treatment since you have poor sperm vitality.
Q: Recently I have noticed that my semen is a yellowish colour and slightly greenish too. Do I have an infection? Should I get it checked by a doctor?
A: Most likely your semen is that way due to the food you have been eating. For example eating a lot of garlic can make your semen quite yellow. If you are taking some medicines, that could also affect the colour of your semen. You could consult a doctor, but in general you should not worry too much about it.
Q: I would like to become a sperm donor. What tests do I have to undergo?
A: The most important test for a sperm donor is the semen analysis test. This test will determine if your sperm meets the required criteria for a donor.
Q: My sperm vitality is very low. What is the treatment for us to have a baby?
A: The best treatment for sperm with low vitality is IVF with ICSI fertilisation.