What do the results of your sperm test mean? A typical semen analysis might include the terms “sluggish sperm” and “diminished sperm motility” and “normal forward sperm progression” – but don’t let those sperm test results alarm you. What are the worst results of a semen analysis? Not seeing any sperm at all, which is what happened to my husband and me! And it turned out not to be so bad after all. Read What to Do When Your Husband Has Azoospermia (azoospermia means no sperm).
Did you know that most couples check the female partner’s fertility before even considering the fact that male fertility may be a problem? Low fertility levels happen to both men and women, but women tend to examine their reproductive health before men do. This is ironic because male fertility tests are much easier, less expensive, and less invasive than female fertility tests. It’s important for men to check their sperm count and health with a semen analysis – even with an informal, preliminary sperm test at home.
In the past, it often assumed to be a female fertility problem that prevented a couple from conceiving a baby. Most people automatically assume that a woman’s reproductive health is reason a couple can’t get pregnant. This may be partly to protect the male ego, which has often been assumed to be fragile. Further, the male psyche equates fertility with virility and “manliness.” In many cultures not being biologically able to father a child leads to embarrassment, shame, and even economic instability for the whole family.
Studies today, however, show that at least 30% of infertility is because of a medical or health problem with the man. So, the fact that you’re interested in getting a sperm test and interpreting the results of your semen analysis is a positive step forward in your journey to getting pregnant and starting a family!
The reason a sperm test and semen analysis is so important is because the vast majority of men have no way of knowing their fertility levels. Unless, of course, they accidentally father a child before they’re planning a pregnancy. Some fertility doctors say that when a couple is having trouble getting pregnant, the must always be tested first. Fertility health tests for women are far more complicated, invasive and expensive. It is much simpler to find out if the man has a problem with his semen – which the results of a semen analysis can quickly and accurately do.
A semen analysis (sperm test) is the most important fertility test for couples
A sperm test for men is the first step to finding out why you can’t get pregnant. Remember that your body makes new sperm every 3 months, which means you need to keep testing your count, motility, and health.
The SpermCheck home test for male fertility is an easy-to-use at-home test for determining the concentration of sperm in semen. You’ll know within minutes whether your sperm count is within the “normal” range. A positive result indicates that your sperm count is above 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A negative result indicates that the count is below the 20 million sperm per milliliter threshold, and further testing by your doctor may be warranted. Low sperm count is one of the main causes of fertility issues in couples experiencing difficulty in conceiving.
A store-bought “semen analysis” is an inexpensive way to test your sperm count, motility, and concentration. However, the fact that a semen analysis is so inexpensive can be misleading. Many patients and (even doctors) assume that a home semen analysis must be an easy test to do because it’s cheap. This is why you can get an inexpensive semen analysis done at a neighborhood lab, or even buy a male fertility test through an online store like Amazon.
Home male fertility test kits can help men who are curious about their fertility levels. The best home sperm tests also measure the concentration of motile cells – not just the total number of sperm cells. Why? Because if you as a man are producing 100 million sperm and they are all dead or not swimming, then it’s useless to know you have a “normal sperm concentration.” That’s why a semen analysis is crucial to understanding your male fertility levels. You need to assess sperm that are moving, because those are the sperm that will fertilize an egg during normal conception.
What Happens When You Get a Semen Analysis in a Medical Clinic
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.
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.
What is a Sperm Made of?
“A normal sperm has three sections: a head, a midpiece, and a tail,” writes Sharon Perkins and Jackie Meyers-Thompson in Infertility For Dummies (a great resource for couples who want to get pregnant!). “All three parts need to be normal for a sperm to be considered normal, according to the strict Kruger morphology, a system for evaluating sperm…”
Since male infertility accounts for about 33% of not getting pregnant for couples, it’s important to get a semen analysis done if you can’t get pregnant. A man’s sperm count, motility, or production is very important to pregnancy. Here’s a description of the three parts of a sperm, plus information on what sperm test results mean…
Though sperm are teeny tiny, laboratory technicians can see their details under a microscope (which is what will happen during a semen analysis or sperm test).
- The head of a sperm contains all the genetic material, so a sperm with an abnormal head can’t fertilize an egg.
- The midpiece of a sperm contains fructose, which is the energy it needs to move rapidly.
- The tail of a sperm is necessary for propulsion. Sperm with no tail, two tails, or coiled tails are abnormal, and won’t help with getting pregnant.
“Most laboratories can do a ‘screening’ semen analysis,” writes Sharon Perkins and Jackie Meyers-Thompson in Infertility For Dummies. “However, the determination of morphology (proportion of ‘normal’ forms)…takes a high level of expertise, and is generally only available at a bona fide fertility program.”
What Does Your Semen Analysis Mean?
Okay, you’ve received the results of your sperm test…and you have no idea what sperm volume, concentration, motility, or morphology really means! Have no fear: the following parameters are from the World Health Organization (WHO) – a reliable source of medical information.
Normal sperm volume (amount) is 1.5 to 5 ml, or about a teaspoon.
Normal sperm concentration should be greater than 20 million sperm/ml, or a total of greater than 40 million per ejaculate.
Normal sperm motility means that more than 40% of the sperm should be moving (swim forward, mates!).
Normal sperm morphology means that more than about 30% of sperm should be normally shaped, as determined by the lab technician. If the lab uses the more strict Kruger criteria, normal sperm morphology should be 14%.
Normal sperm forward progression is at least 2, on a scale of 1 to 4 (this part of the sperm test measures how many sperm are moving forward).
Sperm white blood cells should be no more than 0 to 5 per high-power field. More could indicate infection.
Sperm hyperviscosity means that the semen should gel promptly, but should liquefy within 30 minutes after the sample is taken.
Sperm Ph should be alkaline, to protect sperm from the acidic environment of the woman’s va-jay-jay.
If you’re worried about the health of your sperm, read Foods to Help You Recover Sperm Health, Count, and Motility.
Your sperm will vary
Fertility doctors recommend doing at least two sperm tests, about three months apart. Why? Because men are constantly producing sperm, so your semen analysis results can change from month to month. So if you’ve done a home fertility test for sperm (or are preparing to do a semen analysis through a clinic or laboratory), remember that semen samples can vary from month to month – or even day to day. On average, it takes 72 days for sperm to develop.
Other factors that affect a semen analysis or sperm test results include illness, prescription medication, other drugs (even over-the-counter cold medicine), and unusual happens in your body and life. It takes three months for sperm to “settle down” from atypical influences. So, if you experienced anything unusual in three months before the sperm test or semen analysis, then your results may not be indicative of normal sperm count, motility, or production.
And that, my friends, is why you need to talk to a fertility doctor or urologist. Simply knowing the results of your semen analysis isn’t enough.
How to Improve Your Sperm Count and Motility
Here are two supplements that might improve the results of your semen analysis:
The Sperm Count Boost for Men is a non-prescription dietary supplement designed to be taken with FertilAid for Men. Sperm CountBoost is not a standalone product; it must be taken along with FertilAid for Men (which I listed just below).
CountBoost is formulated for men who are trying to achieve a pregnancy – and who are specifically having problems with low sperm count. The World Health Organization defines “low sperm count” containing fewer than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen ejaculate.
If your semen analysis results show a low or poor sperm count, you may consider adding CountBoost for Men to your daily regimen in order to more aggressively address the sperm count issue. One bottle contains 60 capsules (a 1 month supply).
FertilAid SpermCount Boost for Men is a comprehensive multivitamin and mineral formula that has been clinically demonstrated to increase the total number of sperm a man produces.
FertilAid for Men has been clinically proven in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to increase the total number of motile sperm a man produces. It’s is the bestselling male fertility supplement in the US because it’s doctor-designed to help naturally optimize a man’s reproductive health and increase his chances of conceiving. This dietary supplement features a patented science-based formula, containing key amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
I hope this helps you understand – even just a little – your sperm test and semen analysis! You may feel disappointed to discover that the results of your semen analysis aren’t clear. Remember that accurately reading and understanding the results of a semen analysis requires the expertise of a trained doctor. A fertility test that checks sperm at home is a good first step to determining why you can’t get pregnant, but it’s only the beginning. For a thorough understanding of your semen analysis results, it is crucial to go to a reliable laboratory that specializes in sperm testing. Semen testing and reporting is very subjective and depends upon the skill of the technician in the lab and the doctor in the medical clinic.
Your comments – big and little – are welcome below. If you need help reading or understanding the results of your semen analysis, talk to a urologist, fertility doctor, or family physician.
For more male fertility tips, read What Causes Unexplained Infertility in Men? Damaged DNA in Sperm.