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Semen Analysis – How Doctors Analyze a Sperm Sample

semen analysis

An analysis of a sperm sample is part of a male fertility test that can help you identify why you’re not getting pregnant.

Here are the basics of a semen analysis, to help you decipher a sperm test for male infertility.

But first, a quip:

“It is a well-documented fact that guys will not ask for directions,” says humor writer Dave Berry. “This is a biological thing. This is why it takes several million sperm cells…to locate a female egg, despite the fact that the egg is, relative to them, the size of Wisconsin.”

But what if the man doesn’t have several million sperm? What if he has none? That’s why a semen analysis is important – it’s the number one test for infertility for men and it can reveal fertility problems, such as oligospermia or azoospermia.

A popular home fertility test for men is the Micra Sperm Test – At Home Test for Sperm Count and Motility.

And, here’s a description of the basic procedure for a sperm test in a medical laboratory or doctor’s office.

How a Semen Analysis Works

The man will supply a sperm sample, either at home or in the doctor’s office or laboratory. The semen needs to be analyzed within a few hours of leaving the man’s body, or the sperm test won’t be accurate. If he finds it awkward or embarrassing to procure the sperm sample himself, his partner can help bring forth the sample. Magazines or videos are also an option – but many couples find that it brings them closer to produce the sperm sample together. It can be fun, and even romantic!

What Are Doctors Looking for in a Sperm Test?

Sperm morphology or physical abnormalities – to fertilize an egg, his sperm cells need to be at least 30% normal (normal shape and size of sperm head). Not all sperm is normal, and not all sperm needs to be normal. A man with just half normal sperm cells can get a woman pregnant.

Total volume – if he doesn’t produce enough semen (less than 2.5 milliliters), his seminal ducts may be blocked or he may not be making enough sperm. Semen volume of 2 to 5 milliliters is considered normal.

Sperm count – the semen analysis will reveal how many sperm he produces, which will help doctors figure out if male infertility is the cause of the woman not getting pregnant. A normal sperm count ranges from 40 to 300 million sperm per milliliter. Sperm counts below 10 million are poor (oligospermia); no sperm count is azoospermia. If sperm count is an issue, read foods that increase sperm count, production, and motility.

Sperm motility and velocity – sperm motility is the number of active sperm cells (50% should be actively swimming forwards), while sperm velocity is how well the sperm moves.

Liquefaction – doctors also test whether sperm coagulates after about 20 minutes (normal sperm does this). If the semen doesn’t coagulate properly, then there may be a problem with the seminal vesicles.

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To learn more about semen and male fertility, read Low Sperm Count – How Do I Make Healthy Sperm to Conceive?

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8 thoughts on “Semen Analysis – How Doctors Analyze a Sperm Sample”

  1. What does your doctor or urologist say about the sperm test or semen analysis? The best person to tell you if you can get pregnant is your doctor! I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, but you need to talk to your doctor in person for the best results.

  2. My husband sprem test show Normal at 1% does this means that he can not get a woman pregnant. The mortility is and volume is great, but this one is at 1%. Can you please help.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    Thanks for your comment — I’m glad you like Quips & Tips!

    I hope your testosterone test went well, and especially hope that you don’t feel guilty about anything…especially cancer! Even if your past actions are affecting your ability to get your wife pregnant today, you still can’t blame yourself. You made your choices in the past, and if you knew it might affect your fertility today, then you may have made different choices. But we don’t know how our actions will affect us in the future…we make the best decisions we can in our lives. And, we have to accept our pasts even if we made mistakes.

    All that to say, I hope you don’t feel guilty about developing cancer!

    Wishing you all the best,

  4. Hey Laurie, great website by the way. Up to this point I fear that I will be riding the infertility coaster soon. There seems to be some issues with my FSH and LH levels. I already know where that can lead to. I’ll be take a full testorone test today so looking forward to good results on that. I guess from there my wife and I we’ll see where we go from there. I just seem to be guilty of myself mainly because I developed cancer during my young adult life. 37 going strong but remain hopeful.
    Thank you.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Sam,

    The best way to get information on an at-home test for male fertility is by reading the instructions for specific tests. I can’t recommend any specific test, but think that PreConceive Plus is a popular sperm test for semen analysis.

    Good luck; I hope you get her pregnant soon!