Semen analysis provides important information about the quality and quantity of the sperm and is the basis of testing for male infertility problems. The semen sample is analyzed for volume, viscosity (thickness), pH and colour of the ejaculate, sperm concentration, motility, morphology, and forward progression of the sperm. The sample is also examined for the presence of white or red blood cells which may indicate infection or inflammation.
The sperm count (also referred to as the concentration) is a measurement of how many million sperm a man has per millilitre of semen. An average sperm count is above 60 million/ml. Men who have less than 20 million/ml are considered infertile.
Sperm motility, or mobility, is an assessment of how well a man’s sperm moves. At least 50%, preferably more though, of a man’s sperm should be active.
When it comes to fertility the shape of a sperm cell is also important. When examining your sperm’s morphology, your sperm cells will be examined under a microscope for certain traits using the strict Kruger criteria. This test allows us to more closely examine the sperms shape. Stringent criteria must be met for sperm to pass as “normal”. This evaluation involves examining a sperm’s head, midpiece and tail. This test is beneficial in that it gives your specialist a better idea of which treatment will be the most helpful for you.
The amount a man ejaculates is also assessed. 2ml or more is the normal volume for ejaculate. There are a number of factors that can affect how much ejaculate is provided for a semen analysis. If not all of the ejaculate is collected in the provided container or if a man gets “performance anxiety”, the amount of semen collected may be less than what the man actually produces.
The seminal fluid will be tested to determine the fluid’s colour, the viscosity and how long it takes for the semen to liquefy after ejaculation. All of these aspects can have a negative impact on the sperm.
Total Motile Count
This is the final assessment. It calculates the total number of motile sperm in a man’s ejaculate. Your fertility specialist will multiply the following: the volume of your sample X the sperm count X the percentage of motile sperm. An acceptable ejaculate should have more than 40 million motile sperm.
White Blood Cells
If there is a higher number of white blood cells in the semen, then it may indicate a past infection or possibly inflammation. There should be some white blood cells in the semen. A sample containing more than a million white blood cells per millilitre is considered to be problematic. If elevated levels of white blood cells are found, additional samples will need to be tested for white blood cells.
An evaluation is done to determine how much progress motile sperm are able to make. Motility does not guarantee forward progression. A clear picture of just how active sperm are needs to be obtained. By combining the percentage of motile sperm with the distance they are able to swim, your fertility specialist gains a better idea of how well your sperm perform.