At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To investigate the health of your reproductive organs if your partner is having trouble becoming pregnant, or after a vasectomy to determine if the operation was successful
When to Get Tested?
When you think you might have a fertility problem or after you have had a vasectomy
A semen sample collected in a sterile container provided by the lab
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
A semen analysis measures the quantity and quality of both the liquid portion, called semen, and the microscopic moving cells called sperm. Semen is the turbid, whitish substance that is released from the penis during ejaculation. Sperm are the cells in semen with a head and a tail that enables them to travel to the egg. A sperm contains one copy of each chromosome (all of the male’s genes) and fuses with the female’s egg, resulting in fertilisation.
A typical semen analysis could measure:
- the volume of semen
- the semen consistency (thickness)
- sperm concentration,
- total number of sperm
- sperm motility (the percentage that are able to move, as well as how vigorously and straight the sperm move)
- the number of normal and not normal (defective) sperm
- coagulation and liquefaction
- fructose (a sugar in semen)
- pH (acidity)
- the number of immature sperm, and
- the number of white blood cells (cells that indicate infection).
Additional tests may be performed if semen is abnormal, such as a test for sperm antidodies. If assisted reproductive technology is contemplated, for example, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), sperm function tests may also be performed. Sometimes a test called cryosurvival is done to see how well semen will survive frozen for periods of time, if a couple would like to store sperm for future pregnancies.
How is the sample collected for testing?
Most labs require samples to be collected on-site as the semen needs to be examined within one hour after ejaculation. Semen is collected in a private area, usually a bathroom. The man masturbates and collects the semen in a jar. Some men, for religious or other reasons, might want to collect semen during the act of intercourse, using a condom. If this is the case, the doctor should provide the condom or sheath because lubricated condoms can affect test results.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.