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Semen Analysis

(continued)

How It Is Done continued...

If any of these methods are against your beliefs, talk with your doctor about different methods of collection.

If you collect the semen sample at home, the sample must be received at the laboratory or clinic within 1 hour. Keep the sample out of direct sunlight and do not allow it to get cold or hot. If it is a cold day, carry the semen sample container against your body to keep it as close to body temperature as possible. Do not refrigerate the semen sample.

Since semen samples may vary from day to day, 2 or 3 different samples may be evaluated within a 3-month period for accurate testing.

A semen analysis to test the effectiveness of a vasectomy is usually done 6 weeks after the vasectomy.

How It Feels

Producing a semen sample does not cause any discomfort. But you may feel embarrassed about the method used to collect it.

Risks

There are no risks associated with collecting a semen sample.

Results

A semen analysis measures the amount of semen a man produces and determines the number and quality of spermcamera.gif in the semen sample. Results of a semen analysis are usually available within a day. Normal values may vary from lab to lab.

Semen analysis1

Semen volume

Normal:

2–5 milliliters (mL) (0.002–0.005 L in SI units) per ejaculation

Abnormal:

An abnormally low or high semen volume is present, which may sometimes cause fertility problems.

Liquefaction time

Normal:

20–30 minutes after collection

Abnormal:

An abnormally long liquefaction time is present, which may indicate an infection.

Sperm count

Normal:

20 million spermatozoa per milliliter (mL) or more

0 sperm per milliliter if the man has had a vasectomy

Abnormal:

A very low sperm count is present, which may mean infertility. But a low sperm count does not always mean that a man cannot father a child. Men with sperm counts below 1 million have fathered children.

Sperm shape (morphology)

Normal:

More than 30% of the sperm have normal shape.

Kruger criteria: More than 14% of the sperm have a normal shape.

Abnormal:

Sperm can be abnormal in several ways, such as having two heads or two tails, a short tail, a tiny head (pinhead), or a round (rather than oval) head. Abnormal sperm may be unable to move normally or to penetrate an egg. Some abnormal sperm are usually found in every normal semen sample. But a high percentage of abnormal sperm may make it more difficult for a man to father a child.

Sperm movement (motility)

Normal:

More than 50% of the sperm show normal forward movement after 1 hour.

Abnormal:

Sperm must be able to move forward (or "swim") through cervical mucus to reach an egg. A high percentage of sperm that cannot swim properly may impair a man's ability to father a child.

Semen pH

Normal:

Semen pH of 7.1–8.0

Abnormal:

An abnormally high or low semen pH can kill sperm or affect their ability to move or to penetrate an egg.

White blood cells

Normal:

No white blood cells or bacteria are detected.

Abnormal:

Bacteria or a large number of white blood cells are present, which may indicate an infection.

Certain conditions may be linked with a low or absent sperm count. These conditions include orchitis, varicocele, Klinefelter syndrome, radiation treatment to the testicles, or diseases that can cause shrinking (atrophy) of the testicles (such as mumps).

If a low sperm count or a high percentage of sperm abnormalities are found, further testing may be done. Other tests may include measuring hormones, such as testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), or prolactin. A small sample (biopsy) of the testicles may be needed for further evaluation if the sperm count or motility is extremely low.

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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