Semen Analysis

The semen analysis is one of the most important tests in the infertility evaluation. It should be performed before any treatment of the female begins, as male factor infertility is present in about one-third of infertile couples.

Semen analysis is recommended for those that have undergone a vasectomy three months after the procedure to measure whether or not it was a success. It is also recommended for the male within a couple that’s struggling to conceive after twelve months of unprotected intercourse. 

What is Semen Analysis?

A comprehensive semen analysis measures the quantity and quality of semen, the fluid released during ejaculation. This includes evaluating the seminal fluid and sperm, the moving cells associated with reproduction. A less comprehensive analysis may be performed for post-vasectomy patients, where the sample is solely examined for the presence of sperm. 

The semen analysis is a relatively inexpensive test and, given its importance, should be performed by an andrologist in a reproductive medicine laboratory. These clinicians have evaluated thousands of samples and are experts in evaluating subtle sperm abnormalities.

About the Semen Analysis Procedure

During semen analysis, many sperm characteristics are evaluated. The most important include the sperm concentration (number of live sperm in the specimen), motility of the sperm (ability to move in a straight line), and the morphology of the sperm (shape and size of the sperm).

Other characteristics include:

  • Sperm count
  • Viscosity
  • Volume
  • pH
  • Number of immature sperm

Prior to the Procedure

In order to collect the best possible sample and most accurate results, andrologists usually instruct patients not to participate in intercourse or masturbation for 2 - 5 days prior to collection. Other instructions may also be provided, as certain conditions can temporarily impact sperm count and motility, affecting day-to-day semen consistency. 

Sample Collection

Sperm is sensitive to changes in temperature and its motility decreases after ejaculation. For these reasons, sample collection should be performed at a reproductive medicine laboratory to receive the most accurate measurements possible.  

At the clinic or laboratory, a sterile, wide-mouth container is provided as well as a private area where one can perform self-stimulation. Customarily, a sample is examined within 60 minutes after sample collection. 

Non-Laboratory Sample Collection

If a patient cannot self-stimulate” for religious or alternative reasons, a doctor may provide you with a collection sheath to be used during intercourse, as lubricated condoms can affect a sample and its results. 

If one opts to obtain their collection outside of a laboratory or clinic, be sure to keep the sample at body temperature (98.6°F) - do not freeze, refrigerate, or leave out for a long period of time.

If the sample is poor, another sample will need to be collected and testing will need to be repeated. 

Test Results: Next Steps

Abnormalities of the semen analysis may prompt your physician to consult a urologist for further evaluation.

Many treatment options now exist for couples with male factor infertility.