The global incidence of infertility is about 8% to 12% (72.4 million couples experience it), out of which about 50% of infertility issues stem from suboptimal male factor parameters. In a society that highly values the process of child-bearing, infertility has psychological, financial, and physical repercussions, which can cause anguish and stress in couples who have not been able to bear children. Semen quality is utilized as a predictive marker of male fecundity since the defects, as well as deficiencies found in the semen, are frequently the cause of male infertility.
How do Seminal Parameters Help Indicate Infertility in Men?
If you are searching the internet for “semen analysis near me,” you have very likely been advised to get this test by your physician. It is also possible that your spouse has been suggested to get tests to check if the infertility problem is due to female factors. So how does a semen analysis detect infertility problems?
Male factor infertility is defined as infertility caused due to sperm parameters that happen to be below the levels approved by the World Health Organization pertaining to fertility standards for men. Low sperm concentration (oligospermia), poor sperm motility (asthenospermia), and aberrant (abnormally shaped) sperm morphology (teratospermia) are the most significant and prevalent abnormalities out of the ones observed in infertile men.
Up to 90% of issues with male infertility are related to low sperm count and aberrant semen characteristics, and they have a significant correlation with the person’s sperm count as well. A faulty control mechanism results in issues with sperm motility, count, and morphology.
Semen is mostly composed of fluids from the male reproductive system. Its primary function is to create a conducive environment for the sperm and carry it to its intended target. It is composed of substances like citric acid, free amino acids, fructose, enzymes, phosphorylcholine, prostaglandin, potassium, and zinc, many of which help nourish the sperm. Sperm counts of 40 million or more overall and 20 million/ml or more are considered normal in semen samples. For the man to be fertile at least 50 % of the spermatozoa (sperm cells) observed need to be active.
How is Semen Analysis Test Performed?
Semen analysis, a lab test essentially, involves the thorough examination of a sample of semen under a microscope. It is a male fertility test that assesses characteristics like sperm quantity, activity (motility), and shape (morphology), which helps diagnose the real issue behind an individual’s infertility, according to the standard values approved by WHO, in regard to a male factor-related fertility.
Low sperm counts, sluggish sperm motion, or abnormal sperm morphology are all potential contributing factors. However, a semen analysis can be done for other purposes as well, such as a vasectomy follow-up. This procedure blocks the tubes that deposit sperm in semen. Hence, if there are no sperm in the semen, then the vasectomy has been successful.
A semen analysis checks for the following –
- pH level, or the amount of acidity or alkalinity of semen.
- Quantity of semen in the sample, or semen volume (in milliliters).
- The number of sperm per milliliter of semen, also known as sperm concentration.
- Sperm morphology, or the sperm’s size and form.
- Sperm motility, or the sperm’s capacity to move toward an egg.
- Time to liquefaction measures the amount of time required for the sperm to turn from a thick sticky substance to a free-flowing liquid.
- Vitality, or the percent of a sample’s sperm cells that are still alive.
- A marker of infection or inflammation is the presence of WBCs (white blood cells) in the semen.
The test begins with the collection of the sample. The preferable approach for the purpose of producing semen for a lab test is masturbation, as it yields a pure sample. This is usually done in a private room in the clinic. Some clinics also provide a special condom to collect sperm samples during sex at home. However, you will have to deposit the sample to the clinic within the hour since semen factors start to deteriorate after an hour and might not give the best results. Since sperm counts fluctuate throughout the day, the individual might need to provide multiple samples spaced a few weeks apart.
Once the sample is procured, healthcare professionals at the testing facility will perform microscopy and other tests included in a standard semen analysis test. You will likely get the results on the same day.
Things to Consider Before a Semen Analysis Test
When you are advised to get a semen analysis test done, there are some things you have to be mindful of.
- You should refrain from sexual activity for two to seven days before you give your first sample. This covers both sexual activities as well as masturbation. By doing this, you ensure that sperm counts are at their highest, and your results will have no deviation.
- You should not consume alcohol for at least three to five days as it may have a negative impact on your semen factors.
- If you are taking any herbal supplements or prescription medicine, let your doctor know so that they can decide if you need to stop them temporarily or if it is okay to continue taking them.
Some supplements and drugs that can have an impact on the semen analysis results are,
- Testosterone: Taking testosterone supplements may cause the body to cease making its own natural testosterone and sperm temporarily. It may result in a low count or a deficiency of sperm.
- Anabolic steroids: Used to increase muscular mass, these supplements may have an impact on sperm production.
- Cannabis/ Marijuana: The psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in Marijuana can reduce sex drive and prevent the body from producing testosterone and sperm as it should.
- Opiates: These have the potential to reduce testosterone production and sperm count.
What are the Ideal Results of a Semen Analysis Test?
Once the semen parameters are checked, your laboratory will compare them with standard values. The semen would ideally need to include:
- Sperms with the right anatomy – More than 50% of sperm have a regular form (single rounded head and a tail), which is a typical outcome for sperm shape. A man’s fertility is decreased if more than 50% of his sperm have irregular shapes.
- A slightly alkaline pH – A pH level of between 7.2 and 7.8 is required for a normal outcome. A pH value greater than 8.0 can be a sign that the donor carries an infection. A value below 7.0 can mean the sample is either tainted or the man’s ejaculatory ducts are obstructed.
- Normal sperm density – Ideally, there should be between 20 million to over 200 million sperm in the sample. Conceiving may be difficult with a lower number.
- Rapid rate of liquefaction – The semen should transform into a liquid state quickly in order to pass and travel through a woman’s reproductive system easily. Semen should liquefy within 15 to 30 minutes. Although semen has a much thicker consistency during ejaculation, the capacity for it to liquefy—or change to a liquid—allows sperm to flow more freely. Fertility may be impacted if semen does not liquefy in 15 to 30 minutes.
- Normal sperm motility – Motility of sperm is rated from 0 to 4 on a scale. A score of 0 indicates no movement, whereas a score of 3 or 4 indicates adequate movement.
What are the Abnormalities in Sperm?
A semen analysis test can also help detect specific irregularities in semen parameters as well as sperm morphology.
- Irregularities in sperm count, such as lack of sperm in seminal plasma. This is known as azoospermia. A sperm count as low as 15 million sperm/mL is called oligozoospermia.
- Sperm motility abnormalities – Consistently low motility is a predictor of unsuccessful fertilization. (Normal forward advancement should be at least 25 μm/s).
- Teratozoospermia – Abnormal sperm shape and structure (morphology).
Options to Treat Male Infertility and Increase Chances of Conceiving
Once a sperm test is done, physicians can then suggest other tests to pinpoint the problem. Depending upon information received from these tests, there are certain treatment options.
- Surgery: For instance, a varicocele can be treated surgically, as can an obstructed vas deferens. An earlier vasectomy can also be undone, as it is reversible, unlike tubectomy.
- Sperm can be extracted straight from the testicles or epididymis using sperm retrieval procedures in situations where there are no sperm in the ejaculate.
- Infection treatment – Infection in the reproductive tract may be treated with antibiotics. However, fertility cannot be ascertained.
- Erectile dysfunction or early ejaculation – can be corrected through medication. Counseling, too, can assist enhance fertility.
- Medicines and therapies for hormones – When infertility is brought on by high or low levels of particular hormones, the doctor may advise hormone replacement or medicines.
- Use of assisted reproduction techniques (ART) – Depending on every unique situation and preference, ART treatments may involve acquiring sperm by routine ejaculation, surgical extraction, or from donors. The sperm are subsequently used for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), or intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Semen analysis can throw light on the causes of male infertility and is a very well-defined and routine test. A range of data from the test may be used to identify the characteristic variables that influence a person’s fertility. Once test results are found to be abnormal, your physician will refer you to a fertility specialist.
At Dreams Fertility, we have successfully helped hundreds of couples who faced the challenges of infertility due to male factors. With comprehensive fertility testing facilities and a wide range of customizable fertility treatment options, our expert physicians will create the right strategy for you so that you can realize your dream of welcoming a new member to your family.
If you have been searching for “semen analysis near me,” look no further than Dreams Fertility, one of California’s most trusted fertility clinics. Schedule a consult with a Dreams Fertility physician today and start your fertility journey with us.
Dr. Luis Murrain joined Dreams Fertility in 2021, providing specialty services in Fertility and Reproductive Genetics. With a shared vision that everyone deserves to have the family of their dreams, we are dedicated to helping all of our patients. We believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. We are proud to have a long history of providing services to all, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples on their road to parenthood.