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The Basics of Semen Analysis
When a couple has been trying to conceive 'the old fashioned way' for a year without results (or six months if they're over 35), they will hopefully be pro-active and find their way to a Fertility Doctor. During an initial consultation, the Doctor will go over their medical history and start the process of finding answers in order to formulate a game plan. Invariably, part of getting a clearer picture of what's going on and how to use that information to help conceive will involve testing.
The next-steps after a first consultation varies from couple to couple. For the woman, the possible tests suggested will vary based on her medical history, cycles and age. The one test that you can almost bank on being recommended, however, is for the man to have a semen analysis.
A semen analysis is a non-invasive test to evaluate the man's sperm that can give a great overall picture of a man's fertility. So for the less familiar, what exactly does it entail, and what does it test for?
More than likely, you will be asked to avoid any sexual activity for 2 to 5 days before the day of the test (but preferably not abstain for longer than 5 days before). On the day of the analysis, you will produce a semen sample into the famous cup, in a private room or bathroom at your Doctor's office or an associated clinic or laboratory.
Occasionally it is possible to collect the sample at home and transport it to your Doctors office if you live close by. If this option is available, it's important when considering it to keep in mind that you would be working with a time limit. Typically in order for the sample to be considered valid, it has to be with the technicians within an hour of collecting it. While collecting at home may seem like a less stressful option, it's important to factor in traffic, distance, and the likelihood of getting it there on time.
Once you've delivered your sample, they may ask you for ID (just to verify they have the right person) and for the exact time it was collected. It's also important on any forms you fill out to be honest about medications you take or even recreational habits (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.) as some things can affect the results.
A semen analysis may test some or all of the following:
The results of this test will tell you what percentage of sperm in the sample have a normal shape.
This gives you an idea of the sperms' movement - how active they are overall and what percentage display a normal forward motion.
The measurement of how much semen is present.
Once semen leaves the body it slowly goes from a gel consistency to a liquid. This measures the amount of time it takes to liquefy.
This tells you the number of sperm per milliliter of semen.
This measures where the semen falls in the scale between acidic and alkaline.
The amount of sugar present in the semen.
White Blood Cell Count
White blood cells indicate infection and are usually not present in semen.
The time it takes to get the results varies from clinic to clinic. When you do you get your results, your Fertility Doctor will go over them with you and explain what your specific numbers mean. If there are abnormalities found, many of them are treatable and don't necessarily indicate male infertilitymale infertility. While yes, some issues may be found that require more extensive treatment, some abnormalities may just require lifestyle changes.
Just like with any type of fertility testing, the purpose is to find answers and develop an appropriate treatment plan, and ultimately pinpoint the best way to conceive.