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All About Semen Analysis

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

When a couple faces fertility challenges, a comprehensive evaluation includes consideration of both male and female fertility issues. As part of the evaluation, the male partner will likely undergo a semen analysis. We will be discussing how a semen analysis is performed and what it reveals.

What is a Semen Analysis?

A semen analysis is a laboratory test that examines a sample of semen. There are specific values that a semen analysis will evaluate for. These include the following:

  • Semen volume: the amount of semen in the sample

  • Sperm concentration: the number of sperm per millimeter of semen

  • Sperm morphology: the shape and size of the sperm

  • Sperm motility: the movement of the sperm

  • Vitality: the percent of live sperm in the sample

  • White blood cells: this can be a sign of infection

  • Time to liquefaction: how quickly semen changes to a liquid

How is a Semen Analysis Performed?

For a semen analysis, the patient masturbates to produce a semen sample. The laboratory will likely provide guidelines in terms of when the sample should be provided and how the sample should be stored during transmission to the laboratory. Many laboratories have a room dedicated to patients who will provide the semen sample onsite.

Why is a Semen Analysis Performed?

There are two main settings in which a semen analysis is performed. First, a semen analysis is often performed at the start of a fertility workup. Second, a semen analysis can be performed following vasectomy to check on the success of the procedure.

What are the Limitations of a Basic Semen Analysis?

A basic semen analysis does not measure the fertilizing potential of sperm and the changes that occur in the female reproductive tract prior to fertilization.

Takeaway Message:

In couples facing infertility, approximately 40-50% is due to male factor infertility. Thus, evaluation of both partners is essential in a fertility workup. A semen analysis is often the first step in evaluating male fertility. Although a semen analysis evaluates for many important factors related to fertility potential, there are still limitations. It is important that couples discuss their concerns with their physician.

Was a semen analysis performed as part of your workup? Were there concerns with the testing? Please share in the comments below.

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