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 You are here : Home / Fertility / Male Fertility Treatments / Semen Analysis / Sperm Tests

Sperm Tests

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Semen analysis is an integral part of the workup of couples consulting for infertility. The availability of semen renders possible direct examination of male germ cells, giving precious data that are not accessible for female germ cells.
Semen analysis includes the examination of : -
  • Spermatozoa
  • Other cells present in semen
  • Seminal fluid
An analysis of the male semen is used to determine if he is fertile or not. In order to determine the fertility, a semen analysis should be performed on a minimum of two samples at least a week apart over a period of 2-3 months. This is necessary because some conditions can affect the sperm levels. The analysis is also used after a man has undergone a vasectomy.

There are various semen tests. These include: Anti sperm Antibodies test which determines the presence of antibodies, which immobilize or kill the sperm and prevent them swimming up towards the egg. To detect the presence of these antibodies, it is necessary to test the blood of both partners, in the cervical mucus and in the seminal fluid. Several methods are available for performing this test, which is not easy to standardize. The best method that is available presently is one that uses immunobeads. It allows the determination of the location of the antibodies on the sperm surface.

The other test is Ion -a semen culture test where the semen is tested to find the presence of bacteria. Interpretation of this test hasn't been east!

The other sperm tests are: Postcoital Test (PCT), which is performed when the wife is in the fertile period. The Bovine Cervical Mucus Test tests for the ability of the sperm to penetrate and swim through the cervical mucus. The Sperm Survival test provides vital information on the functioning potential of the sperm.

Morphology studies the size, shape and the appearance of the sperm cells. If abnormal sperm is present, there is a likelihood that the fertility is low.

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Tests that may be done during a semen analysis include : -
  • Volume. This is a measure of how much semen is present in one ejaculation.


  • Liquefaction time. Semen is a thick gel at the time of ejaculation and normally becomes liquid within 20 minutes after ejaculation. Liquefaction time is a measure of the time it takes for the semen to liquefy.


  • Sperm count. This is a count of the number of sperm present per milliliter (mL) of semen in one ejaculation.


  • Sperm morphology. This is a measure of the percentage of sperm that have a normal shape.


  • Sperm motility. This is a measure of the percentage of sperm that can move forward normally. The number of sperm that show normal forward movement in a certain amount of semen can also be measured (motile density).


  • pH. This is a measure of the acidity (low pH) or alkalinity (high pH) of the semen.


  • White blood cell count. White blood cells are not normally present in semen.


  • Fructose level. This is a measure of the amount of a sugar called fructose in the semen. The fructose provides energy for the sperm.

Specialized Semen Tests

In certain situations, specialized tests are needed. These depend on the findings at the time of the analysis and can often be performed on that specimen.
  • Spun Specimen: - Even if no sperm are seen on the test slide, the sperm count may still not be zero (i.e., there may be very low numbers of sperm in the ejaculate). This has very important implications as it may determine if the couple can conceive using advanced reproductive techniques. This must be assessed by spinning down the specimen so all of the sperm are concentrated in a pellet on the bottom of the tube and then examining the pellet underneath a microscope.


  • Viability: - Sperm may be alive, but not moving. A specialized staining technique is used to determine what percentage of the sperm are alive and is indicated when the motility (percent moving) is less than 30%.


  • Fructose: - In men with no sperm or very low numbers of sperm in the ejaculate, it is important to determine whether the sperm are not being produced at all, or whether they are being produced but are blocked from getting into the semen. A fructose test can help differentiate between these two problems.


  • Post-Ejaculatory Urinalysis (PEU): - Some men ejaculate all or part of the sperm backwards, into the bladder. This can be detected by having a man ejaculate and immediately afterward urinate into a separate cup. The post-ejaculatory urine is then centrifuged to see if any sperm are present.



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