The assessment of male fertility is primarily achieved through a semen analysis.
What is assessed in the semen analysis?
Number of Sperm:
This figure is often described as the ‘count’, although it’s actually the ‘concentration’ of sperm i.e. the number of sperm in each millilitre of the sample. The WHO (1999) quotes 20 million sperm per millilitre 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, 50% or more of sperm should be actively swimming.
Sperm Morphology (size & shape):
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, or shape.
Semen Volume & Consistency:
The WHO (1999) quotes 2 millilitres (about half a teaspoon) or more as the normal volume for an ejaculate.
Anti-sperm Antibodies Test:
The WHO (1999) defines binding of anti-sperm antibodies to 50% of sperm as clinically significant, with a potential impact on fertility.
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. In cases such as this, a testicular sperm extraction may be necessary to help with conception.
What’s involved in a semen analysis?
Usually, a sample is produced offsite and brought to 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. For example, 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've been trying to conceive for more than 12 months (or 6 months if you're over 35 years of age) without success, we recommend you book an appointment with a fertility specialist who can conduct some simple fertility tests.