A semen analysis measures the amount of semen a man produces and determines the number and quality of sperm in the semen sample.
A semen analysis is usually one of the first tests done to help determine whether a man has a problem fathering a child (infertility). A problem with the semen or sperm affects more than one-third of the couples who are unable to have children (infertile).
How To Prepare
You may be asked to avoid any sexual activity that results in ejaculation for 2 to 5 days before a semen analysis. This helps ensure that your sperm count will be at its highest, and it improves the reliability of the test. If possible, do not avoid sexual activity for more than 1 to 2 weeks before this test, because a long period of sexual inactivity can result in less active sperm.
You may be asked to avoid drinking alcohol for a few days before the test.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any medicines or herbal supplements you are taking.
How It Is Done
You will need to produce a semen sample, usually by ejaculating into a clean sample cup. You can do this in a private room or in a bathroom at your doctor's office or clinic. If you live close to your doctor's office or clinic, you may be able to collect the semen sample at home and then transport it to the office or clinic for testing.
- The most common way to collect semen is by masturbation, directing the semen into a clean sample cup. Do not use a lubricant.
- You can collect a semen sample during sex by withdrawing your penis from your partner just before ejaculating (coitus interruptus). You then ejaculate into a clean sample cup. This method can be used after a vasectomy to test for the presence of sperm, but other methods will likely be recommended if you are testing for infertility.
- You can also collect a semen sample during sex by using a condom. If you use a regular condom, you will need to wash it thoroughly before using it to remove any powder or lubricant on it that might kill sperm. You may also be given a special condom that does not contain any substance that kills sperm (spermicide). After you have ejaculated, carefully remove the condom from your penis. Tie a knot in the open end of the condom and place it in a container that can be sealed in case the condom leaks or breaks
If you collect the semen sample at home, the sample must be received at the laboratory or clinic within 1 hour. Keep the sample out of direct sunlight and do not allow it to get cold or hot. If it is a cold day, carry the semen sample container against your body to keep it as close to body temperature as possible. Do not refrigerate the semen sample.
Since semen samples may vary from day to day, 2 or 3 different samples may be evaluated within a 3-month period for accurate testing
There are no risks associated with collecting a semen sample.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- Medicines, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), male and female hormones (testosterone, estrogen), sulfasalazine, nitrofurantoin, and some chemotherapy medicines.
- Caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and smoking tobacco.
- Herbal medicines, such as St. John's wort and high doses of echinacea.
- A semen sample that gets cold. The sperm motility value will be inaccurately low if the semen sample gets cold.
- Exposure to radiation, some chemicals (such as certain pesticides or spermicides), and prolonged heat exposure.
- An incomplete semen sample. This is more common if a sample is collected by methods other than masturbation.
- Not ejaculating for several days. This may affect the semen volume