When evaluating a man for infertility, one of the tests is semen analysis. Semen is collected and examined in a clinical setting. For best results a man is instructed to refrain from ejaculation for 3 to 5 days prior to collection of semen in the clinic. This designated period of abstinence produces the Optimum Volume of semen to determine and measure fertility. Often the test is repeated to ensure an accurate prognosis.
In the clinic a man is asked to masturbate into a sterile container. While this might seem distasteful to some patients, it ensures that the sample is kept at a proper temperature and is not contaminated before examination.
The analysis measures the volume of semen ejaculated, the number of sperm, the viability and motility of the sperm.
A normal male will ejaculate 3 to 5 milliliters of sperm. A count of 20 million sperm per milliliter (or greater) is considered normal and healthy. It is unlikely that a man will be able to fertilize a woman if his sperm count is below 10 million per milliliter.
Age has little or no bearing on a man’s ability to produce sufficient sperm.
Sperm need to swim to reach their destination. That is why they are shaped like fish with long tails to propel them forward.
Semen coagulates after it is ejaculated. It can take up to an hour for it to liquefy, releasing the semen to be on their journey. A part of the semen analysis is evaluating liquefaction.
Surprisingly, sperm develop in a variety of shapes—some have two heads and some have two tails. Studies have not determined whether or not shape (referred to as morphology) has any bearing on male fertility.
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Dr. Christine Strong, NMD