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Sperm Penetration Tests

Sperm penetration tests check to see whether a man's sperm can move through cervical mucus and the fallopian tubes to join with (fertilize) an egg. This test is usually done when a couple is having trouble becoming pregnant (infertility).

There are different sperm penetration tests.

  • The sperm mucus penetration test checks whether a man's sperm can move through the cervical mucus. This test is not done very often because there are other fertility tests that give more information about the fertility problem.
  • The sperm penetration assay (also called the hamster zona-free ovum test or hamster test) checks whether a man's sperm can join with an egg. Sperm are mixed with hamster eggs in a laboratory. The number of sperm that penetrate the egg (sperm capacitation index) is measured. This test is done most often at special fertility centers that do in vitro fertilization.

Why It Is Done

Sperm penetration tests may be done:

  • When other tests have not found a cause for infertility.
  • To see how the sperm function when a semen analysis test has shown some problems, such as slow movement or the sperm look abnormal.
  • To test sperm before doing in vitro fertilization.

How To Prepare

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

Sperm mucus penetration test

For women, this test must be done during ovulation. Follow your doctor's instructions for checking the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. When you check your LH level, do the urine test in the mid- to late morning, and do not drink any fluids that morning until you have done the test. If your test shows that you are ovulating, call for a doctor's visit for the next day.

For men, the semen sample is collected after the cervical mucus sample is taken. You should not release your sperm (ejaculate) for 2 days before the test. It is important to not go longer than 5 days before the test without ejaculating.

Sperm penetration assay (SPA)

The sperm penetration assay only requires a semen sample to be taken.

For men, it is important that you do not release your sperm (ejaculate) for 2 days before the test. But do not go longer than 5 days before the test without ejaculating.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 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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