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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

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Semen Analysis


How It Is Done continued...

If any of these methods are against your beliefs, talk with your doctor about different ways to get a sample.

If you collect the semen sample at home, the sample must be given to the lab or clinic within 1 hour. Keep the sample out of direct sunlight. And do not let it get cold or hot. If it is a cold day, carry the semen sample container against your body. This helps 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, two or three different samples may be checked within a 3-month period. This helps to get accurate testing.

A semen analysis to test how well a vasectomy has worked is usually done 6 weeks after the vasectomy.

How It Feels

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


There are no risks associated with collecting a semen sample.


A semen analysis measures the amount of semen a man produces. It also shows 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


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


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

Liquefaction time


20-30 minutes after collection


An abnormally long liquefaction time is present. This may be a sign of an infection.

Sperm count


20 million spermatozoa per milliliter (mL) or more

0 sperm per milliliter if the man has had a vasectomy


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

Sperm shape (morphology)


More than 30% of the sperm have normal shape.

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


Sperm can be abnormal in several ways. They may have two heads or two tails, a short tail, a tiny head (pinhead), or a round (rather than oval) head. Abnormal sperm may not be able to move normally or to penetrate an egg. Some sperm that aren't normal are usually found in every normal semen sample. But a high percentage of abnormal sperm may make it harder for a man to father a child.

Sperm movement (motility)


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


Sperm must be able to move forward (or "swim") through cervical mucus to reach an egg. A high percentage of sperm that can't swim well may make it harder for a man to father a child.

Semen pH


Semen pH of 7.1-8.0


An abnormally high or low semen pH can kill sperm or affect how well they can move or can penetrate an egg.

White blood cells


No white blood cells or bacteria are found.


Bacteria or a large number of white blood cells are present. This may be a sign of an infection.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 30, 2014
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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