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Semen Analysis

Does this test have other names?

Semen testing

What is this test?

This is a series of tests that looks at how healthy your semen and sperm are.

Male infertility is often caused by low sperm count, abnormal sperm movement, or weak sperm. If you and your partner are trying to conceive, the results of this test can help you figure out the next steps you may want to take. 

Why do I need this test?

You may have a semen analysis if you and your partner haven't been able to conceive.

You may also have this test if you've recently had a vasectomy. A vasectomy prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm separate from semen during ejaculation. Your doctor can use this test to find out whether the vasectomy was successful.

If you had a reverse vasectomy, your doctor can also use this test to see if it was successful.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor might also do a physical exam and a detailed medical history. You may also have genetic tests or tests on your endocrine glands.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

The normal ranges for each procedure are:

  • Volume: 2 to 5 milliliters (mL)

  • Liquefaction time, or the amount of time it takes your semen to go from a gel-like substance to a watery substance: 20 to 30 minutes after collection

  • pH, or acidity: 7.12 to 8.00

  • Sperm count: 50 to 200 million per milliliter (m/mL

  • Sperm motility, or the ability to move rapidly: 60 to 80 percent actively moving

  • Sperm morphology, or the sperm's shape and size: 70 to 90 percent normally shaped

If your results are different, you may have decreased fertility. But it's possible for men with lower sperm counts to be fertile, and men with high sperm counts to be subfertile.

How is this test done?

This analysis requires a semen sample. The sample can be collected a different ways. The most common and reliable way is to ejaculate into a sterile container in a private room at your doctor's office. You can also collect the sample at home by ejaculating into a condom that has no additives or lubricants. But the sample must be delivered to the lab within an hour after ejaculation.

Other methods may be used to collect the sample. For example, your doctor may use a vacuum device fitted around your penis to increase blood flow to your penis, resulting in ejaculation. If you have a spinal cord injury, a vibrator may be used to encourage ejaculation.

Semen can vary in quality, so you may need to provide two samples within a week or two.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no physical risks. But some men may feel embarrassed by the method used to collect the semen sample.

What might affect my test results?

Using lubricants or condoms containing a lubricant can affect the results of your test.

How do I get ready for this test?

For the most accurate test results, abstain from sex for two to seven days. In addition, be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.