So you’ve been to the GP and they’ve finally referred you on for further investigations. But what does this look like for men? And what do these results really mean?
I’d like to provide you with a brief breakdown so you can better understand your sperm sample results. (BIG SIDE NOTE: Always ask for your results back so you can see them for yourself!)
First and foremost, please be reminded that sperm production is a constant cycle and it takes around 100 days for sperm to mature. Any semen analysis result will only ever be a snapshot of the health of the man 100 days prior to the test and will only show certain parameters.
So, I encourage you to always ask your fertility doctor for a second sample to get a more accurate reflection of sperm health.
Secondly, it’s important to understand for both conception and the provision of your sperm sample that there MUST NOT be a period of abstinence. Here’s why. The longer the sperm is stored up, the more damaged they will be and the lower the quality of the sperm will appear.
Often, fertility clinics will ask for the male partner to ejaculate 3 consecutive days prior to providing a sample for IVF, but avoiding it within the final 24 hours, pre-sample provision. It may result in a lower quantity of seminal fluid but yield greater sperm quality.
And finally, to get the best reflection of sperm quality, it’s advised that you:
-Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and recreational drugs two to five days before the test.
-Stop taking any herbal medications, such as St. John’s wort and echinacea.
-Avoid any medications where possible, as instructed by your doctor.
-Rearrange your test if you’re feeling unwell
Now on to the nitty gritty! What do your results actually mean?
Sample volume. Is there enough of it? Has the whole sample been collected? It’s important that ALL the sample is collected as most of the sperm and quality sperm is in the first release of ejaculate. Must be more than 1.50ml. An excess fluid volume could also mean the amount of sperm present is diluted.
Semen PH. Make sure this is within range otherwise you might question if there is an infection or something else going on. A pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8 to achieve a normal result. A pH level higher than 8.0 could indicate the donor has an infection. A result less than 7.0 could indicate the specimen is contaminated or that the man’s ejaculatory ducts are blocked.
Viscosity. If you leave semen for 30 mins, it should liquify. If you leave it and it goes lumpy then this could indicate sperm antibodies. This would be indicated in your Mixed Antiglobulin result, if it’s been done.
Density + Motility. Anything greater than 15 million p/ml. Forward progression is more important than motility (32% is minimum) i.e. Sperm that is swimming in the right direction.
Morphology. This is the shape of the sperm. A laboratory may identify abnormalities in the sperm’s head, midsection, or tail. Problems with morphology are considered to be sperm with greater than 50% abnormalities.
Side Note | Appearance. Sperm should be whitish to gray and opalescent. Semen that has a red-brown tint could indicate the presence of blood, while a yellow tint could indicate jaundice or be a medication side effect.
**Important ** Even slightly suboptimal results could mean that the sperm are highly ineffective and inefficient and could be a real problem. It is essential you ask for your results back to better understand your sperm parameters and health.
Hopefully this has provided you with some useful information about how to get the best sperm sample and also better understand/interpret your results when they come through.
Please remember not to be disheartened should the results come through low or sub-optimal as there is so much you can do to improve sperm quality through diet, lifestyle and acupuncture treatment.
What’s more, it provides you with the evidence you need to investigate further the reasons WHY your results are suboptimal. Is it something within your control (diet etc) or does it need further medical investigation (varicocele etc).