microscopeThe ABCs of Semen Analysis

A semen analysis is usually one of the first parts of a couple’s infertility work-up, and it’s a fairly simple test.  While many men cringe when they imagine a doctor’s office room with nothing but a sample cup, racy magazines, and lots of pressure, a semen analysis is critical in evaluating male fertility. In fact, problems with the sperm, or semen, affect more than one-third of the couples who are unable to have children on their own.

What is analyzed, exactly?

In a nutshell, a semen analysis measures the amount of semen a man produces as well as the number and quality of sperm in the semen sample. The lab testing for a semen analysis looks at different factors. Some of these factors are listed below. In many cases, other factors not listed below, such as liquefaction time, pH, white blood cell count, and fructose level, may further aid in the diagnostic and treatment process. A semen analysis typically answers the following questions:

  • How many motile (moving) sperm are present? By evaluating the semen concentration, volume, and percent of sperm that are moving, doctors can get a rough estimate of how many motile sperm are present in a single ejaculation. Additionally, if any one of these factors is significantly abnormal, for example a low motility in the presence of a high sperm concentration, changes in the treatment path may be needed to correct this problem.
  • How are the sperm shaped? Even if there are plenty of motile sperm, if they are not shaped normally, this often correlates with sperm that don’t function normally. Sperm morphology is the process of grading sperm to classify them as normal or abnormal.

When is the test done?

Doctors at Fertility Associates of Memphis generally advise men to abstain from sex for at least two but not more than five days prior to the test. This increases the odds of having a normal semen analysis.

Are all labs the same?

One of the biggest problems with obtaining a semen analysis is the lack of standardization among laboratories. Many hospitals and general OB/GYN or urology offices perform semen analysis. However, there are currently only a handful of laboratories in the state of Tennessee that use a demanding grading system that incorporates “Kruger strict morphology.” However, without the meticulous attention to detail demanded by this process, a semen analysis may be misleading or frankly wrong. Therefore, choosing the right lab to perform the test is critically important. The laboratory at Fertility Associates of Memphis adheres to the most stringent diagnostic criteria.

Looking at your sperm production can help you understand the state of your semen and therefore your chances of getting pregnant. Contact Fertility Associates of Memphis at 901-747-2229 if you’d like to talk to one of our physicians about your infertility issues.

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