Semen Analysis – what it is, why it’s important and what to expect

Semen travelling

When it comes to fertility, the spotlight has traditionally been heavily weighted towards investigating the female’s reproductive system, with emphasis on egg quality predicting the chances of conception. At Repromed we take a balanced approach because it is widely accepted that sperm quality plays an equally significant role in the chances of having a healthy live birth.

We know that sperm quality and quantity is implicated in around 40% of all infertile couples. Research from the Monash group in Australia [1] has found that for each year a male ages, the ability for their sperm to create a live birth decreases by 4%. There is also growing evidence that this effect of age is due to a decline in the DNA quality within the sperm head.

We offer both egg-related tests and sperm-related tests. A Semen Analysis or SA, is one of two sperm-related tests we provide. Here you’ll find some commonly asked questions about SA.

 

What is semen?

Semen is a thick fluid or substance that comes from the penis at the point of ejaculation. The semen ejaculate contains sperm which are male reproductive cells. Sperm consist of a tail that helps the sperm to travel through a female reproductive system and a head that includes a package of DNA which it delivers to the egg during fertilisation.

 

What is a Semen Analysis?

A Semen Analysis is a simple test that allows us to check sperm production. It’s also known as a sperm count test and it allows us to see how many sperm are in the ejaculate, how they’re shaped and how they move.

Each aspect of the semen is measured and compared against standardised minimum values which are published by the World Health Organisation – see the table below. It is however really important that your fertility doctor interprets your results with you, as they do not definitively diagnose if you are fertile or infertile.

WHO semen standardised values

Semen analysis based on WHO guidelines

Based on: WHO Semen Manual for the Examination of Processing Semen 6th Edition 2021

 

When do I need to have a SA?

Your GP or fertility doctor will ask you for a SA if you and your partner have had trouble getting pregnant after 6-12 months of unprotected intercourse. We recommend not to delay, so you can identify any potential issues or cancel them out, before progressing with treatment options.

 

How do I prepare for the test?

There are a few things your GP may ask you to do before you do the test:

  • Abstain from sexual activity a couple of days beforehand, so that your sperm count will be as high as possible.
  • Do not avoid ejaculation for more than two weeks beforehand as it can result in a sample with sperm that are less active.
  • Let your doctor know if you are on any steroids, herbal or other medications.

 

How do I arrange the test?

You can ask your GP to arrange for a test free of charge to be done at Labtest. Or you can register yourself directly with Repromed by ringing 534122. See our cost sheet for more information on costs.

In both instances you will be given a special sperm pot to produce the sample at home and bring it into the Lab within 60 minutes where it will be immediately assessed. An interesting fact is that the first part of the ejaculate has the highest concentration of sperm in it, so failing to get this in the pot may significantly reduce the concentration of your result.

Note, your GP or doctor may want to test more than one sample to be able to get an accurate reading (as semen samples can vary). You will need to provide another sample within two to three weeks.

 

Is there anything I can do to improve my results?

Good news – there is! It takes around three months for sperm to mature in the testes before they’re ready to successfully fertilise an egg.

In that time there are some things you can do to help give your sperm the best chance of success such as eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, exercising regularly (but not excessively) and reducing your alcohol intake.

Read more about the steps you can take to improve sperm quality.

 

Get in touch

If you have questions about semen tests, treatments we offer or how we can support you with your fertility journey, please get in touch with us. New clients can also book in for a free 15 minute phone consultation with a fertility doctor. Make the first step today.

References:

Horta F et al Male ageing is negatively associated with the chance of live birth in IVF/ICSI cycles for idiopathic infertility. Human Reproduction, Vol.34, No.12, pp. 2523–2532, 2019 doi:10.1093/humrep/dez223

Megan Black

Nurse Manager

DipNurs

Megan leads the nursing team through the continually changing face of IVF. She works in a multidisciplinary team, providing the essential organization between the doctors and laboratory and ensuring communication between all departments.

Megan started her IVF nursing career in the United Kingdom, working in two large London clinic’s before returning to New Zealand. She is also the Secretary of Fertility Nurses of Australasia.

I love working with people and see nursing as a vocation, not a job. I usually spend my downtime absorbed in a good book and planning my next travel adventure.