Everything You Need to Know About Sperm Analysis
It’s estimated that male infertility is a contributing factor in about 50% of all cases where a couple is unable to conceive. The most common cause of infertility in men is related to sperm quality and other sperm disorders. For this reason, when male factor infertility is suspected, doctors will typically start with semen analysis.
What Is the Procedure for Semen Analysis?
Semen is collected painlessly by the patient, typically through masturbation into a sterile container or by using a special condom during sex. The semen is then tested in a lab, ideally within an hour of collection.
The lab tests evaluate several factors of the semen and will provide insight into:
- Sperm count
- Sperm morphology
- Sperm motility
- Seminal fluid volume
- pH balance of sperm
In addition to traditional semen analysis, there are tests that can be useful in identifying issues with the sperm. The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA®), for example, can assess any DNA fragmentation that may be present in the sperm. The test is performed using an instrument known as a flow cytometer, which dyes individual sperm cells with fluorescent markers to identify sperm with high levels of fragmented DNA.
“How Should I Prepare for Semen Analysis?”
Prior to collection, men must abstain from sexual activity (including masturbation) for two to five days. This is because ejaculation can actually lower your sperm count temporarily, which will throw off the results of the analysis. Additionally, there are a few other behaviors and activities that you’ll want to avoid before your sample is collected, including:
- Exposure to high heat, such as from a hot tub, a high fever, or car-seat warmers. If possible, you should avoid these situations for at least two to three months before your test. Sperm is very sensitive to temperature, and high heat can have a negative impact on your sperm production. If you can’t avoid high-heat situations, talk to your doctor about how your test can be timed.
- Using alcohol, smoking, excessive consumption of caffeine, or using recreational drugs. These lifestyle habits have been documented as having a negative impact on sperm count. While giving these habits up may not improve your results, it can give you insight into the nature of your sperm’s issues.
You should also be sure to talk to your doctor about any prescription medications you are taking, as many of them can impact a semen analysis test. Your doctor may still go ahead with the exams or find an alternative medication for you.
In general, men usually need to have at least two semen analysis tests in order to diagnose the exact nature of their possible male factor infertility. Once there is a clear picture of the issues, your doctor will be able to develop a plan of attack. To learn more about sperm quality and semen analysis, or to schedule a consultation, please contact us today.