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Semen analysis

Male fertility test; Sperm count; Infertility - semen analysis

Semen analysis measures the amount and quality of a man's semen and sperm. Semen is the thick, white fluid released during ejaculation that contains sperm.

This test is sometimes called a sperm count.

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Sperm
Semen analysis

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Sperm release pathway

How the Test is Performed

You will need to provide a semen sample. Your health care provider will explain how to collect a sample.

Methods for collecting a sperm sample include:

You should get the sample to the lab within 30 minutes. If the sample is collected at home, keep it in the inside pocket of your coat so that it will stay at body temperature while you are transporting it.

A laboratory specialist must look at the sample within 2 hours of the collection. The earlier the sample is analyzed, the more reliable the results. The following things will be evaluated:

How to Prepare for the Test

In order to have an adequate sperm count, do not have any sexual activity that causes ejaculation for 2 to 3 days before the test. However, this time should not be longer than 5 days, after which the quality can diminish.

How the Test will Feel

Talk to your provider if you are uncomfortable with how the sample is to be collected.

Why the Test is Performed

Semen analysis is one of the first tests done to evaluate a man's fertility. It can help determine if a problem in sperm production or quality of the sperm is causing infertility. About half of couples unable to have children have a male infertility problem.

The test may also be used after a vasectomy to make sure there are no sperm in the semen. This can confirm the success of the vasectomy.

The test may also be performed for the following condition:

Normal Results

A few of the common normal values are listed below.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

An abnormal result does not always mean there is a problem with a man's ability to have children. Therefore, it is not completely clear how the test results should be interpreted.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may suggest a male infertility problem. For example, if the sperm count is very low or very high, a man may be less fertile. The acidity of the semen and the presence of white blood cells (suggesting infection) may affect fertility. Testing may reveal abnormal shapes or abnormal movements of the sperm.

However, there are many unknowns in male infertility. Further testing may be needed if abnormalities are found.

Many of these problems are treatable.

Risks

There are no risks.

Considerations

The following may affect a man's fertility:

Related Information

Infertility
Vasectomy
Klinefelter syndrome

References

Jeelani R, Bluth MH. Reproductive function and pregnancy. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 25.

Swerdloff RS, Wang C. The testis and male hypogonadism, infertility, and sexual dysfunction. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 221.

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Review Date: 1/15/2020  

Reviewed By: Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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