If you are reading this, you're likely wondering if a semen analysis is the right choice for you — and how you can prepare for sperm testing so you’ll get the most accurate and valuable results.
Sperm is a key element when thinking about fertility. (After all, it makes up 50% of your future child’s DNA.) The only way to find out if your sperm is healthy is to have a semen analysis. It will look at your sperm count, concentration, volume, motility, and morphology. By looking at all these metrics of your sperm, you can uncover issues that might cause a problem with fertility.
If you are curious about semen analysis, you have come to the right place. This article will discuss why you might consider testing your sperm, the steps involved in semen analysis, and what happens after you get your semen analysis report.
Why is sperm testing helpful?
There are several reasons why you may consider sperm analysis:
Semen analysis if you are trying to conceive or planning to get pregnant
Maybe you’ve been trying to have a baby with your partner for a while. If you've been having unprotected sex for 6–12 months and your partner isn't pregnant, semen analysis could be a good next step.
One-third of infertility cases are due to male factor infertility, one-third due to female factor infertility, and one-third are a mix of both female and male fertility problems (with a small percentage of cases being unexplained).
What if you just started trying to get your partner pregnant, or you plan to start soon? There’s no reason not to test proactively. Testing your sperm early can help you identify or rule out any male factor fertility problems, making the process of getting pregnant easier, faster, and less stressful.
Sperm testing before sperm freezing
If you plan on freezing your sperm, whether for cancer treatment, due to the nature of your job, or because you want to preserve your youngest, healthiest sperm — testing before freezing is essential.
If you have semen analysis prior to freezing your sperm, you can identify any problems with your sperm health. Often, you can improve your sperm parameters through lifestyle changes. If you know in advance, you can work on freezing your sperm in its healthiest state.
Semen analysis after a vasectomy or vasectomy reversal
If you have had a vasectomy, you will need to test your sperm to make sure the procedure has worked as it should. Clinicians recommend getting a semen analysis around 12 weeks after the procedure to confirm the vasectomy is effective.
If you get a vasectomy reversal — a surgical procedure to re-connect your vas deferens — your doctor will likely recommend monthly semen analysis to ensure your sperm count and quality is recovering properly. (Vasectomy reversal doesn’t guarantee fertility. We always recommend sperm freezing before a vasectomy.)
Semen analysis to get more data about your fertility & health
Many people decide to proactively check their sperm, especially before embarking on family building. You may want to give yourself the best possible chance at having children.
If you find your sperm parameters are not optimal, it can take 2–3 months for any lifestyle changes to make a difference to your sperm health. By proactively checking your sperm in advance, you can ensure you have plenty of time to make any changes and see the results before starting a family.
Learn more about semen analysis in our Guide to Sperm Testing.
In-office vs. at-home male fertility testing: which is right for you?
Before embarking on sperm testing, you first need to decide whether you want to do this at a doctor's office or use an at-home male fertility test. Both options are possible, and it's your personal decision.
The process of semen analysis is pretty simple. You collect a semen sample in a small cup through masturbation. This sample is then sent to a laboratory for examination.
If you are already under the care of a fertility specialist or urologist, you may decide that having your semen analysis at the doctor's office is the right decision for you.
Many people feel unsure about where to get a semen analysis done. Finding time to go to the doctor's office can be tricky — especially if there’s no fertility clinic near you. Plus, producing the sample (AKA masturbaing) in a doctor’s office can feel awkward and intimidating.
At-home sperm testing is an excellent alternative option for several reasons. It is discreet and done in your own home. So, you may find this more comfortable. Results are provided more quickly — within 2 business days — and are 100% confidential.
Choosing the best at-home semen analysis for you
If you decide to go with an at-home semen analysis kit, make sure it’s giving you all the necessary information.
Some mail-in testing kits only give you basic results, like sperm count, and not a full view of your sperm parameters as evaluated in an andrology lab. With Legacy, you get an in-depth, six-page report analyzing key male fertility metrics: volume, count, concentration, motility, and morphology.
You can also add sperm DNA fragmentation analysis, an in-depth evaluation of your sperm’s genetic health. Legacy is the only at-home kit that offers DNA fragmentation testing.
Getting prepared for a semen analysis
No matter which sperm collection method you choose, there are a few key points to remember to ensure you get optimal results.
- Make sure you understand the instructions for your chosen method. If you have any confusion, ask your healthcare provider or a Legacy fertility advisor.
- Try to avoid doing a sperm test if you are currently sick or have recently been sick, as the results can be affected by illness or fever.
- Do you know how many days of abstinence are required before sperm analysis? If you’ve ejaculated too recently, your sample will likely have a lower semen volume and sperm count. But if it’s been too long, your sperm motility, morphology, and genetic health may be reduced.
Most experts, including ours, recommend abstaining from ejaculation (sex or masturbation) for 2–5 days before the test.
- Remember you can't use lube or saliva to produce a sample for testing, since lube can affect sperm quality.
Sperm testing, from the comfort of home
Sperm is half of the equation when it comes to having kids. Testing gives you the tools you need to understand and optimize your fertility.
See sperm testing options
Mentally preparing for semen analysis
Understanding how the sperm testing process works is not the only aspect of preparing for a semen analysis.
Have you thought about what happens if your semen analysis results are abnormal? It's important to remember that abnormal results do not necessarily mean you are infertile. Many people with abnormal semen analysis results are able to conceive naturally; similarly, many with normal semen analysis results will still have difficulty getting their partner pregnant.
However, there is a strong correlation between your semen analysis results and your chances of conceiving. You can read more about semen analysis results in Legacy's Guide to Sperm Testing.
The best thing to do is to speak to a specialist about your results if you have concerns. They can then advise you on what they mean and the next steps. There are a few options to discuss semen analysis results:
- If you opt to use a Legacy semen analysis kit at home, you have the option to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our fertility specialists to discuss your results. You’ll also receive personalized guidance for lifestyle changes that may help you improve your fertility on your own.
- If you went to a clinic for semen analysis, you will likely need to schedule a follow-up appointment at the clinic.
- If you are seeking longer-term fertility support, you can see a reproductive endocrinologist — a female fertility specialist who also works with couples — or a urologist, a male fertility specialist. You may even end up working with both.
If you’re having difficulty trying to conceive or you’re embarking on fertility treatments, it can be helpful to have some additional emotional support.
Infertility and reproductive concerns can be distressing and confusing, but you don't have to go through it alone. Fertility counselors are trained to help you navigate your personal journey. Seeing a counselor allows you to talk about your feelings in a safe environment with someone who understands and supports you.
If one-to-one counseling isn't for you, you may want to find a support group either locally or online. Speaking to others who have been through, or are experiencing the same problems, can be helpful. The main thing is to remember you are not alone, and help is available.
Learn more about supporting your partner through a diagnosis of male-factor infertility.
- Whether done in a doctor’s office, or at home, semen analysis is a simple test which can provide you with a view of your sperm health.
- To ensure you get accurate results, follow the instructions to provide a sample, including instructions on how long to abstain before a semen analysis.
- Think about next steps in case your results are abnormal. You may need more than one sperm test to determine next steps.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from a fertility specialist or counselor.