Semen Analysis Results Point to Problems with Male Fertility
The semen sample must be examined in order to determine if there are factors present which could reduce the chances for a sperm to fertilize an egg. This examination is known as a semen analysis. It is common for a semen sample to vary from one collection to the next. In order to lessen this variability and to optimize the quality of the sperm in the collection, the male partner will be asked to abstain from having an ejaculation for a brief time before his collection that is to be analyzed.
Understanding Semen Analysis Results
The examination of the sperm will include a count of the total number of sperm present. It will also include a count of the sperm that are moving, or motile. This number of moving sperm is expressed as a percentage of the total. A forward progression indicates if the population of sperm present is, in general, moving in a straight line. Another important evaluation of the sperm is the morphology, or shape of the sperm. The shape can indicate if the sperm is functional or not. The sperm that have a normal shape are more likely to be able to swim to an egg in the woman’s reproductive tract and to penetrate the egg once they have arrived. The deficiencies that are revealed in a semen sample may prevent the fertilization of an egg from occurring but, more likely, these deficiencies may simply reduce the probability of pregnancy.
Abnormalities in sperm production or function cause about 40 percent of all infertility cases. If you have tried for one year or longer to get pregnant with no success, a Texas Fertility Center doctor will order and evaluate a sperm analysis to develop an appropriate course of action.
Sperm concentration – often referred to as a sperm count, it is the number of sperm present in each milliliter of fluid (a teaspoon holds 5 milliliters). A normal concentration is 20 million per milliliter.
Sperm motility – this is the percentage of sperm with movement. At least 50% of the sperm should be motile. This is further broken down into those with progression (moving forward) versus those that are not; at least 50% of all sperm should have forward progression.
Semen volume – total amount of fluid collected in the sperm sample. A normal volume is at least 1.5 milliliters but not more than 5 milliliters.
Total motile sperm count – this is the total number of moving sperm in the sample. To get this number, you multiply the volume by the concentration, and again by the percent that are motile. Usually there are at least 15 million motile sperm in the sample.
Sperm morphology – this refers to the shape of the sperm. Surprisingly, abnormally shaped sperm are common. Many labs use the World Health Organization criteria for grading the shape of the sperm, which considers a sample normal if at least 30% of the sperm have a normal shape. Texas Fertility Center uses a much stricter grading system in which the different parts of the sperm are measured. By this grading system, a sample is normal if more than 4% of the sperm have normal measurements.
Viscosity – or thickness of the sperm fluid. Low or moderate viscosity is considered normal.
Leukocytes – these are white blood cells, which are signs of inflammation or infection. A small number of leukocytes can be normal, while more than one million leukocytes per milliliter is considered abnormal.