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Semen Analysis

A semen analysis measures the amount of semen a man produces and determines the number and quality of spermcamera.gif in the semen sample.

A semen analysis is usually one of the first tests done to help determine whether a man has a problem fathering a child (infertility). A problem with the semen or sperm affects more than one-third of the couples who are unable to have children (infertile).

Tests that may be done during a semen analysis include:

  • Volume. This is a measure of how much semen is present in one ejaculation.
  • Liquefaction time. Semen is a thick gel at the time of ejaculation and normally becomes liquid within 20 minutes after ejaculation. Liquefaction time is a measure of the time it takes for the semen to liquefy.
  • Sperm count. This is a count of the number of sperm present per milliliter (mL) of semen in one ejaculation.
  • Sperm morphology. This is a measure of the percentage of sperm that have a normal shape.
  • Sperm motility. This is a measure of the percentage of sperm that can move forward normally. The number of sperm that show normal forward movement in a certain amount of semen can also be measured (motile density).
  • pH. This is a measure of the acidity (low pH) or alkalinity (high pH) of the semen.
  • White blood cell count. White blood cells are not normally present in semen.
  • Fructose level. This is a measure of the amount of a sugar called fructose in the semen. The fructose provides energy for the sperm.

Why It Is Done

A semen analysis is done to determine whether:

  • A man has a reproductive problem that is causing infertility.
  • A vasectomy has been successful.
  • The reversal of a vasectomy has been successful.

How To Prepare

You may be asked to avoid any sexual activity that results in ejaculation for 2 to 5 days before a semen analysis. This helps ensure that your sperm count will be at its highest, and it improves the reliability of the test. If possible, do not avoid sexual activity for more than 1 to 2 weeks before this test, because a long period of sexual inactivity can result in less active sperm.

You may be asked to avoid drinking alcohol for a few days before the test.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any medicines or herbal supplements you are taking.

How It Is Done

You will need to produce a semen sample, usually by ejaculating into a clean sample cup. You can do this in a private room or in a bathroom at your doctor's office or clinic. If you live close to your doctor's office or clinic, you may be able to collect the semen sample at home and then transport it to the office or clinic for testing.

  • The most common way to collect semen is by masturbation, directing the semen into a clean sample cup. Do not use a lubricant.
  • You can collect a semen sample during sex by withdrawing your penis from your partner just before ejaculating (coitus interruptus). You then ejaculate into a clean sample cup. This method can be used after a vasectomy to test for the presence of sperm, but other methods will likely be recommended if you are testing for infertility.
  • You can also collect a semen sample during sex by using a condom. If you use a regular condom, you will need to wash it thoroughly before using it to remove any powder or lubricant on it that might kill sperm. You may also be given a special condom that does not contain any substance that kills sperm (spermicide). After you have ejaculated, carefully remove the condom from your penis. Tie a knot in the open end of the condom and place it in a container that can be sealed in case the condom leaks or breaks.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 30, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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