What you need to know about sperm testing

Sperm analysis involves checking a sample for overall sperm health.

Whether in a clinic or with a home test, sperm testing can help medical professionals determine and potentially treat the cause of infertility. Sperm samples are tested for several attributes of sperm health, to include: the amount of sperm in 1 millimeter (ml) of semen, the shape and size of sperm, and the capacity of sperm to move efficiently.

The professionals at Legacy have put together this guide to help you understand everything you need to know about sperm testing. 

How to Tell if a Man is Infertile

In the simplest terms, infertility is when a couple is unable to conceive a child, even though they have tried for months or even years. According to the Mayo Clinic, infertility affects upwards of 15% of couples.

Male infertility can be due to a variety of factors, to include a low sperm count, a blockage that prevents the delivery of sperm, and abnormal sperm function (such as movement and shape). Additionally, injuries, illnesses, lifestyle choices, chronic health problems, and other factors can play a role in male infertility.

For the most part, men who experience infertility fail to notice symptoms other than the inability to conceive a child. However, common symptoms and signs associated with male infertility include:

  • Complications with sexual functions to include: difficulty with ejaculation, small volumes of ejaculated fluid, challenges keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction), or reduced sexual desire
  • Swelling, a lump, or pain in the testicle area
  • Decreased body or facial hair and other signs of a hormonal irregularity
  • A low sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen)

How to Obtain a Semen Sample

Depending on your circumstances, your doctor will require you to provide a semen sample in person while in the provider’s office. However, many men opt to collect their sample with a home test. To ensure the sample is usable, a doctor may require that an individual abstain from sexual activity for several days before the test. They may also require the patient to avoid caffeine, alcohol and certain prescription medications before their analysis.

As sperm samples can vary from day-to-day, medical professionals may require several samples within two to three week intervals.

Understanding Sperm Test Results

Once a sample is provided, the results of a sperm analysis will be ready within a few days. A sperm test analyzes several factors to determine sperm health.

Sperm count or concentration – The amount of sperm present in 1 ml of semen is known as sperm count. Research suggests that up to 90% of male infertility is the direct result of irregular sperm counts. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests healthy sperm count numbers lie between 15 million and 39 million sperm per 1 ml sample. Having any amount lower than this results in a low sperm count. 

Sperm motility – Low sperm motility is one of the most common causes of male infertility. Low sperm motility refers to the inability of the sperm to move swiftly and efficiently toward their destination (i.e. the egg). When sperm are too slow and unable to make their way to the egg, they ultimately die. In a healthy semen sample, at least 40-50% of the sperm demonstrate normal motility.

Sperm morphology – The shape and size of individual sperm are known as morphology. Healthy sperm have an oval-shaped head and a long tail. Abnormal sperm can have trouble reaching, entering, and fertilizing an egg. Normal semen samples contain a minimum of 4% sperm with standard size and shape.

What do Abnormal Sperm Test Results Mean?

An abnormal semen analysis does not mean an individual is permentably infertile. Rather, medical professionals use these results as a tool to help identify which factors are causing fertility problems. Men who experience abnormal results from a sperm test generally require further testing to help identify the exact cause of infertility and potential approaches to correct the problem. In many cases, fertility problems can be addressed with the right treatment.

Sperm Testing with Legacy

One of the most important factors in providing couples with the most accurate and effective fertility treatment plans is arriving at an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause or causes of a couple’s infertility. Leveraging the latest innovations and advances in scientific technology, Legacy helps men test their sperm within the comforts and privacy of their home. With a wide variety of fertility testing packages to choose from, Legacy makes it easy to test and store your semen sample.

Contact a member of our fertility team to learn more.