If you and your partner have been trying unsuccessfully for over a year (or six months if you’re at an older age) to get pregnant, it’s wise to undergo fertility testing. Part of the routine fertility testing process is semen analysis.
Semen is released during ejaculation and is made up of sperm and other sugars and protein substances. The sperm has both a head — the portion that can genetically fertilize an egg — and a tail — the part that helps the sperm reach the egg. The other fluids allow the sperm to reach the back of the woman’s vagina and enter the cervix.
So, a semen analysis — or sperm count test — can provide a lot of information about your fertility. The results of this test can tell you all about your sperm’s count, shape, movement, pH, volume, liquefaction, volume, and appearance.
Because semen analysis plays such a big role in understanding what’s causing issues with infertility, our team led by Norbert Gleicher, MD, FACOG, FACS, and David Barad, MD, MS, FACOG, at the Center for Human Reproduction located in the Upper East Side of New York, New York, wants you to understand what a semen analysis can tell you.
What a semen analysis measures
When our team collects a semen sample, we can take a look at the following properties that can all affect fertility:
Concentration and volume
Two things we look at are how much semen you’re able to provide and how many sperm are found in that sample. If your semen sample is less than 1.5 milliliters, your seminal vesicles could be blocked or there could be an issue with your prostate. In addition, if your sperm count is lower than 20 million, it can make conceiving extremely difficult.
Sperm must be able to travel to fertilize an egg. A semen analysis can examine your sperm’s motility, or how much continues to move an hour after ejaculation. For ideal fertility, 50% of your sperm needs to have good motility.
pH levels can affect not only the health of your sperm but also how well it’s able to move. Optimal levels are between 7.2 and 7.8. If your levels are too low, your sperm is considered acidic and can indicate that your ejaculatory ducts are clogged. Levels that are too high are alkaline and may point to an infection.
Shape and appearance
Your semen should be gray or white in color and opalescent. If your semen is tinted reddish brown, it’s an indicator of the presence of blood, and if it’s yellowish, it could point to jaundice or a side effect of medication.
Also, 50% of your sperm should be normally shaped for optimal fertility. If more than 50% are abnormally shaped, it can mean your sperm are immature, making fertilization difficult.
When you ejaculate, your semen has a thick consistency. However, after 15-30 minutes pass, it should become more watery to help it move more efficiently. If your semen stays thick, it can affect your fertility.
What to do after getting test results
An abnormal semen analysis doesn’t mean that conceiving is impossible, it just indicates that further testing is needed. You may need to repeat the test in order to reinforce results or to determine what the best next steps are.
To set up an appointment to undergo semen analysis or to discuss treatment options for male infertility, contact our team by giving us a call or by using our online scheduler today.