A semen analysis, also known as a sperm count and male fertility test, is a test used to evaluate the fertility status in a man by analyzing and measuring the quality and quantity of the sperm and semen he produces. It is also often requested after a vasectomy procedure performed by doctors specializing in urology. Vasectomy is a birth control method wherein men undergo a surgical operation in order to prevent sperm release during ejaculation. Within six weeks following the operation, sperm should no longer be present in the semen analysis.
Men are usually advised to avoid sexual intercourse for two to five days before submitting samples for semen analysis. Alcohol consumption, as well as smoking and use of some drugs, should also be avoided as they can affect the result of the test. Masturbation is a common way for sperm to be released and collected in a clean specimen cup. A sample can also be collected during intercourse, with a man withdrawing his penis from his partner just before ejaculation. The use of a collection condom during sexual intercourse is another way to get samples.
Sperm samples are required to stay at body temperature during transport to the laboratory as sperm often die outside this temperature. The ideal way is to keep the sample close to the body. Semen analysis is usually done within 30 minutes to one hour after collection.
Semen analysis includes measuring the amount or volume of the sample, as well as the density or number of sperm, its motility or mobility, appearance, and forward movement. The pH or acidity of the semen, the presence of white blood cells, and the time it takes for the semen to become liquid are also measured. Semen analysis is often done multiple times, usually many weeks apart, for a more reliable result as sperm counts have a tendency to fluctuate. Physicians do not usually depend on just one single test for the assessment of fertility in men.
Fertility problems in men are often revealed in the results of the semen analysis. These can include low sperm count, low volume, the abnormal appearance of sperm, inactive sperm, and prolonged liquifaction time. The presence of white blood cells in high numbers often indicate infection in the male reproductive system. Further evaluations by medical specialists are frequently needed when the test indicates extremely abnormal results.