Why is a sperm analysis test required?

The first step to treating infertility is the evaluation of fertility in both the intended parents. Without a proper diagnosis, one can never find which partner is experiencing infertility. In some cases, it can be both partners or simply unexplained infertility. As a medical procedure, doctors conduct a sperm analysis test to assess for male infertility. In this blog by Dr. Manish Banker, Gujarat, we will address the importance of a sperm analysis report. Additionally, we will also address how to prepare for a sperm analysis test and what abnormalities could mean.

What is a sperm analysis test?

A sperm quality test/count test is a practice that is used to study the quality of a man’s sperm. These tests help understand the health and viability of the sperms. Sperm, sugar and protein are found in seminal fluid. This fluid is released during ejaculation. A sperm analysis report studies this fluid to understand the number, shape and motility or movement of sperm. Doctors usually conduct a few rounds of semen analysis tests to accurately diagnose any issues. These tests are conducted at least a week apart as sperm counts can differ on a daily basis. The average of these parameters is taken during the sperm test reports in order to determine sperm quality. Sperm analysis tests are a trusted and tested assessment for infertility in intended parents. These tests help determine the different treatments for infertility for intended parents.

How to prepare for a male sperm test?

Fertility specialists such as Dr. Manish Banker will help you understand what measures patients are required to take before appearing for a sperm analysis test. It’s imperative to follow the instructions given by the doctor for producing accurate reports.

To get the most accurate results:

  • Avoid ejaculation before the test (24-72 hours test)
  • Do not consume substances such as tobacco, marijuana, etc, two to five days before the test
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol for two to five days before the test
  • Do not consume ayurvedic, herbal and other natural medicines
  • Avoid consumption of hormone medications as well

Do inform the doctor of any medication that you are currently taking so that doctors can suggest alternative solutions for the same.

What is the procedure for a male sperm test?

First, a sample of your sperm is collected during a semen analysis report. There are 4 main ways to collect the sample:

  • Through masturbation
  • Through sex using a condom
  • Through withdrawal before ejaculation during sex
  • Through electricity stimulated ejaculation

The most ideal and common way to get a sample for a sperm quality test is masturbation.

What are the precautions taken for attaining a sample?

The most important precautions that need to be taken is that the sample must be kept at body temperature as the temperature can affect the accuracy of the report. The testing facility must collect the sample within 60 minutes of leaving the body. Some other factors that can affect the outcomes of a sperm analysis test are:

  • Sperm coming in contact with spermicide. (A contraceptive substance that is used to destroy sperm)
  • Submitting a sample when sick or under mental stress
  • Technical errors by the lab
  • Contamination of the collected sample

It must be noted that there are no particular risks associated with a sperm analysis report, however, sanitisation by both the patient and the lab must be practised to avoid the possibility of any infections from developing. If the sperm test reports show abnormalities, then the doctors are likely to check for the errors mentioned above. If all of the errors are ruled out, then doctors check if the patient is under the influence of any substances such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs.

Conducting male sperm tests at home:

During COVID-19, many people might feel scared to step out as unnecessary exposure may pose a health risk. Home tests cannot be conducted to study the quality of the sperm, rather the count. As there are limitations to home tests, many doctors recommend taking sperm analysistests at labs. While the results are very fast in-home tests, it does not factor in all necessary parameters. These tests simply study the normal sperm count which should be 20 million sperm per millilitre of seminal fluid. Even if the count is normal, it still does not mean that the patient is fertile as the test does not take into consideration all the parameters. Sperm analysis, when done in a professional clinic such as Banker IVF is usually more exhaustive and accurate.

What is a normal sperm report?

After the sperm sample is collected, ideally the results are delivered within 24 hours of taking it. There are several factors to consider during a sperm analysis test. For example, if the patient has undergone a vasectomy, then the presence of sperm is checked. However, when it comes to conducting sperm analysis tests for infertility, the reports are comprehensive. There are many parameters to look at before declaring that the sperm count and quality are normal.

WHO Semen Analysis Reference Values:

Semen Volume (ml)1.5
Sperm concentration (10/ml)15
Total Sperm Number(10/Ejaculate)39
Progressive Motility(PR, %)32
Total Motility (%)40
Vitality (Live sperms, %)40
Sperm Morphology (NF, %)4
pH*>/= 7.2

1. Movement: A normal sperm test reports factors in the movement of the sperm. In a normal and healthy person, 32% of the sperm must start moving 60 mins after ejaculation. Sperm motility is an important factor in sperm analysis tests as sperms must travel in a woman’s body through the fallopian tube to meet the egg.

2. The shape of the sperm: In a sperm quality test, the shape of the sperm is studied. If more than 4% of a man’s sperm are abnormally shaped, it may be one of the reasons for infertility. There may be abnormalities in any part of the sperm- head, tail and midsection. An abnormal shape of the sperm could also mean that the sperm have not yet matured and thus may not fertilize the egg effectively.

3. pH levels of the sperm: While creating a sperm analysis report, the pH levels of the sperm play an important role in determining the results. The normal pH level of sperms is between 7.2-7.8. If the pH level is lesser than 7.2, it could indicate that the sperm is contaminated or that the ejaculatory ducts are blocked. If the pH level is higher than 8.0, then it can be an indication that the patient has an infection.

4. Liquefication of the sperm: Liquefication of sperm is the ability of the seminal fluid to become “watery”. It should ideally take lesser than half an hour to liquefy. The initial consistency of seminal fluid is thick, however, it should turn watery after a few minutes. This particular consistency helps with sperm motility, which has a direct impact on fertility.

5. The volume of the sperm: Sperm analysis tests also consider the volume of sperm. Normal results have sperm larger than 2 millilitres. A low volume could mean that there is a smaller amount of sperm whereas a higher volume could mean that the amount of sperm is diluted.

6. Sperm count: Sperm test reports include another important factor which is the number of sperm in a sample given by the donor. Sperm count is also known as the density of sperm. Ideally, the count should be between 20 million to 200 million. Low numbers could also be one of the reasons for infertility.

7. Appearance: Male sperm tests also study the colour of the sperm. The sperm must be white or grey in colour and opalescent in nature. Any other colour could mean an infection, illness or the side effect of any medication.

What does it mean if the sperm analysis test reports show abnormalities?

Abnormalities indicate problems of infertility and shed light on the reason(s) a couple is not able to conceive. It could also indicate the presence of several health conditions such as:

  • Infertility
  • Infections
  • Diabetes and other such diseases
  • Defects in genetics
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Radiation exposure

In a nutshell, male infertility contributes to nearly 30-45% of infertility cases in India. It is equally important for the man to get evaluated as much as the woman. Male sperm tests help doctors suggest a solution for infertility, such as IVF, IUI, donor sperm etc. The most important takeaway would be to not panic if reports show abnormalities and consult your doctor for solutions. Many healthy babies are born every day despite the challenges that infertility poses for many. Thanks to technological advancements, male infertility issues have several alternative solutions.

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