Why Sperm analysis is done?

Sperm analysis is an essential part of evaluation of an infertile couple. In most cases, this is the only test, a male partner requires. However, a single abnormal semen analysis does not always mean that there is any abnormality in the man.  

In a man, sperm production requires 3 months and it needs cool temperature than rest of the body. This is why, men have their testes hanging outside the body in the scrotum. Thus, today's semen analysis reflects a man's health 3 months before. If, for any reason (for example, high fever, tight underwear, hot tub bath etc), the man's health was abnormal 3 months ago, the semen analysis may become abnormal. Again, the results can vary from one laboratory to another.

Is there any difference between semen and the sperms?

Semen consists of 2 parts- the sperms and the fluid ("seminal plasma"). The sperms cannot be seen by the naked eye. The fluid that you can see, is the semen. So, semen and the sperms are not the semen. 

How semen is tested?

In the laboratory semen is tested for certain parameters like- volume (amount of semen), liquefaction (time needed for semen to become liquid), colour, appearance etc.  The sperms are checked for total count, motility (ability of the sperms to move), morphology (the appearance of the sperms), vitality (whether sperms are living or not) etc. It is important for the laboratory to follow WHO 2010 criteria for semen analysis (not the older criteria like 1992). Sometimes, some special tests may be done on the semen depending on your scenario. 

How semen collection and analysis is done? 

The easiest and the most commonly used method is masturbation. You should collect it in the laboratory in a room with adequate privacy and comfort. Of course, for most of the men, it seems awkward to collect semen in unfamiliar environment, away from home. Usually most laboratories provide a separate room where you can bring your partner with you. 

Is any preparation required?

Please maintain abstinence for 3 to 5 days (not more than 5, not less than 3). That means you should avoid intercourse and masturbation for 3-5 days prior to the test. This is because, both long term (more than a week) and short (less than 2 days) period of abstinence can lead to false results regarding quality and quantity of the sperms. Get relaxed. Wash your hands properly before the collection. It's important to collect all the semen in the collection pot and not to spill a portion outside.Do not hesitate to tell your doctor if you feel any problem. 

In the next video, we will discuss what to do if you feel problem during semen collection in the laboratory.