Semen analysis is performed to measure male fertility by examining the amount of semen a man produces during an ejaculation. The basic objective of performing semen analysis is to adjudge the quality and quantity of sperms. Semen analysis is done to assess different parameters such as the sperm count, sperm motility, sperm velocity, sperm shape and size, semen volume, and the sperm liquefaction.
When is Semen Analysis Performed?
Semen analysis is advised by a health care provider when a man is facing difficulty fathering a child. Semen analysis is also performed after a vasectomy to confirm whether the procedure has been successful.
As part of semen analysis, you are required to produce a specimen sample of your semen. The doctor might ask you not to have sex for a specified amount of time before submitting the sample. The sample should ideally be delivered within an hour of production.
Parameters Reported by a Semen Analysis
The following parameters are analyzed as part of the semen analysis:
- Total volume: The normal volume of semen per ejaculation should range between 1.5 to 5.5 ml. Low volume of semen indicates that seminal vesicles are not producing sufficient fluid or the ducts are blocked. It could also indicate that there is a problem with the functioning of the prostate gland.
- Sperm count: The sperm count should ideally be between 40 million to 300 million per ml.
- Sperm motility and velocity: Sperm motility signifies the percentage of moving sperms in a sample. At least 50% of the sperms should be motile for an hour after ejaculation. The quality of sperm movement or progression is also analyzed on a scale of 0-4 by using an automated system. A score of 2 on this measuring system is considered good.
- Morphology: The sperm cells are analyzed for normalcy in shape, size, and appearance. At least 30% of the sperm cells should be of normal size, length, and shape. The Kruger morphology test is also performed to analyze the shape and size of the sperm head. The results are considered normal if 14% of more sperms have normal heads.
- Semen pH: The normal range for semen pH should be between 7.2 to 7.8. A pH value of 8 and above indicates that there is an infection whereas a pH value of 7 or less means that the semen has been contaminated by urine or there is an obstruction in the ejaculatory ducts. The normal fructose level in semen should be between 150 to 600 mg/dl.
- Liquefaction: Normal semen is liquid when ejaculated but coagulates into a gel immediately and then turns back into liquid state within 20 minutes. A failure to coagulate or liquefy may indicate that there is a problem with the seminal vesicles. An abnormal coagulation of semen might also indicate a bacterial infection.
Results of Semen Analysis
The results of semen analysis typically fall into three categories: normal, definitely abnormal, and ‘in between’. Normal results indicate that the person has no problems fathering a child. If the results of semen analysis are definitely abnormal it means either the shape and size of the sperms are not normal or there are very few or no sperms in the semen. An in-between result means that fertility can still be achieved though some kind of intervention might be required.
- “WHO laboratory manual for the Examination and processing of human semen” by World Health Organization. Published by Geneva: World Health Organization in 2010, 5th edition, accessed on 20 May 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/44261