Semen Analysis

Reviewed by Dr. Oreoluwa Ogunyemi, UrologistCheckmark
Published: September 12, 2016

What Does Semen Analysis Mean?

A semen analysis refers to the laboratory testing of semen to evaluate male fertility. It can detect male fertility problems and an accurate diagnosis may allow the opportunity to improve natural fertility or select an appropriate treatment.

Male infertility is thought to be the sole issue in about 20% of cases of infertility and plays a role in up to 50% of cases overall (often when there are both male and female issues).

FertilitySmarts Explains Semen Analysis

An analysis will most commonly include a summary of:

  • Sperm count is the total number of sperm in a sample
  • Sperm concentration is the number of sperm in each mL, with a normal concentration of at least 15 million sperm per mL of semen.
  • Motility, the number of sperm moving. Ideally, 40% or more should be moving. This is called total motility count and is thought to be one of the best predictors of male infertility.
  • Morphology or shape, with at least 4% of sperm appearing to be normally shaped. This means that around 96% may appear abnormal, but the appearance does not mean the genetic material on the inside is damaged.
  • Vitality is the percentage of live sperm in the semen sample. At least 58% of sperm cells should be viable.

Semen analysis

The semen surrounding the sperm may be tested for:

  • The volume of semen, with a normal volume of at least 1.5 mL
  • Seminal fructose concentration, which if low can indicate a blockage or obstruction
  • pH, the acidity of semen should range between 7.1 and 8.0. Abnormal pH can affect sperm movement.
  • The presence of white blood cells (which could indicate infection) if there are more than 1 million per ml of semen.
  • Liquefaction, the time required for the fluid to transform from a thick gel to a liquid. This should be around 20 minutes.

Providing a Semen Sample

Either at home or a lab, a semen sample is obtained by masturbating into a specimen cup. It is generally suggested to refrain from ejaculation for a period of two to three days prior to the test in order to produce an ideal sample.

Long periods of abstinence may produce a sample in which the sperm have lower motility (movement). The quality of a semen sample can be greatly impacted by the collection and storage method. Following all directions provided is important to ensure optimal results.

Interpreting a Semen Analysis

It's worth noting that a semen analysis is not a perfect assessment of male fertility and normal values can vary. That is why men should have at least two semen samples to make sure the findings are accurate. This means that the results of a semen analysis are not always correlated with pregnancy outcomes. It's also not uncommon for values to fluctuate. Parameters can be thought of as guidelines that help to direct an investigation.

Parameter World Health Organization 2010 Criteria
Semen Volume More than 1.5 ml
Sperm Concentration 15 Million per ml of sperm
Sperm Motility 32% or more
Sperm Morphology 4%or more
Sperm Vitality 58% or more
White Blood cells Less than 1 million


Sperm Analysis

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