The semen analysis is the cornerstone of testing for male infertility problems. This test provides important information about the quality and quantity of the sperm. The semen sample is analyzed for volume, viscosity (thickness), pH and color of the ejaculate, sperm concentration, motility, morphology, and forward progression of the sperm. The sample is also examined for the presence of white or red blood cells which may indicate infection or inflammation
Also referred to as the concentration, the sperm count is a measurement of how many million sperm a man has per milliliter of semen. On average, sperm count should be above 60 million/ml. Men who have less than 20 million/ml are thought to be infertile.
Sperm motility, or mobility, is an assessment of how well a man’s sperm moves. Ideally, at least 50%, preferably more though, of a man’s sperm should be active.
The shape of a sperm cell is also quite important when it comes to fertility. When examining your sperm’s morphology, your sperm cells will be examined under a microscope for certain traits using the strict Kruger criteria. This test allows us to more closely examine the sperms shape. Stringent criteria must be met for sperm to pass as “normal”. This evaluation involves examining a sperm’s head, midpiece and tail. This test is beneficial in that it gives your specialist a better idea of which ART methods will be the most helpful for you.
Just how much a man ejaculates is also assessed. 2ml or more is the normal volume for ejaculate. However, a variety of factors can affect just how much ejaculate is provided for a semen analysis. If not all of the ejaculate is collected in the provided container or if a man gets “performance anxiety”, the amount of semen collected may be less than what the man actually produces.
Various factors regarding the seminal fluid will also be evaluated. This includes the fluid’s colour, viscosity and how long it takes for the semen to liquefy after ejaculation as all of these aspects can negatively impact on sperm.
Total Motile Count
This final assessment calculates the total number of motile sperm in a man’s ejaculate. To figure this out, your fertility specialist will multiply the volume of your sample by the sperm count by the percentage of motile sperm. An acceptable ejaculate should have more than 40 million motile sperm.
White Blood Cells
If a semen sample contains a higher than usual number of white blood cells, it may indicate a past infection or possibly inflammation. While some white blood cells are expected to be found, a sample containing more than a million white blood cells per millilitre is considered to be problematic. If elevated levels of white blood cells are found, further samples will need to be provided as testing for white blood cells needs to be the first evaluation done on a sample.
This test is designed to evaluate how much progress motile sperm are able to make. Because motility does not guarantee forward progression, it is necessary to obtain a clear picture of just how active sperm are. By combining the percentage of motile sperm with the distance they are able to swim, your fertility specialist gains a better idea of how well your sperm perform.