The causes of infertility are many and varied and can involve the male or female partner or a combination of both. Assessment of male fertility is primarily achieved through a semen analysis.
A semen analysis measures the number of sperm, their motility (ability to move), their morphology (size and shape), and the volume and consistency of the ejaculated sample.
Sometimes a sperm test uncovers that there are no sperm present at all. This could indicate a blockage in the vas deferens (tubes that transport sperm from the testes) or that sperm are not being produced.
- What is assessed in the semen analysis?
The volume of the sample: The WHO (1999) quotes 2 milliliters (about half a teaspoon) or more as the normal volume for an ejaculate.
The number of sperm that are present in the sample: This figure is often described as the ‘count’, although it is actually the ‘concentration’ of sperm, i.e. the number of sperm in each milliliter of the sample. The WHO (1999) quotes 20 million sperm per milliliter or more as a normal count.
The percentage of the sperm in the sample that are swimming (the motility) and how well the sperm are swimming (the progression):
The WHO (1999) states that in a normal sample, half (50% or more) of sperm or more should be actively swimming.
The proportion of sperm that have normal size and shape (the morphology): Morphology can be assessed by different methods and routine semen analysis involves examining a fresh sample. In a normal sample, 35% or more of the sperm would be expected to show a normal morphology (shape).
The presence of anti-sperm antibodies on the sperm: The WHO (1999) defines binding of anti-sperm antibodies to 50% of sperm as clinically significant, with a potential impact on fertility.
- What’s involved in a semen analysis:
A sterile sample pot is provided at the clinic. Usually a sample is produced in the clinic and given to our scientific team on site.
Samples are generally produced by masturbation or if a sample cannot be produced in this manner, please ask our staff for more information.
A semen analysis should be carried out following 2-3 days of abstinence from intercourse or masturbation. Shorter or longer periods of abstinence could result in a misrepresentative result. (e.g. if your appointment is on Thursday you should ejaculate on the Monday or Tuesday and not again until producing the sample).
When to seek help?
If you have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months (or 6 months if you are over 35 years of age) without success, we recommend you book an appointment with a fertility specialist who can conduct some simple fertility tests.