A sperm analysis. It’s not the funniest thing in the world for a man to provide a doctor. However, it’s a critical step in a couple’s infertility journey. While 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility issues, of those 1 in 8 couples 40% of infertility issues are the result of male factor fertility.
The first step in figuring out if you’re dealing with male fertility is by getting a sperm analysis!
But what exactly does a sperm analysis test for? Let’s go beyond the numbers and take an in-depth look at what it tests for and how each sperm analysis aspect affects fertility and the chances of pregnancy.
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For a sperm analysis, people tend to focus on the overall sperm count. This is the total number of sperm present in one sample given. A normal sperm count ranges widely from 20 to over 200 million.
While even the low side of this number seems very high at 20 million, 20 million is considered the low amount of sperm that needs to be present to fertilize an embryo. Any less on a sperm analysis and trying to conceive will be an extra-long journey.
But don’t get so worked up over the sperm count. Sperm count alone is only one small portion of the overall picture for a man’s fertility according to a sperm analysis. A man can be on the high side of a normal sperm count range and still have other difficulties with his sperm.
Morphology is the shape of each sperm. Sperm has a specific look to it for a reason! Sperm typically have an oval-shaped head that comes to a point to help it penetrate an egg. Then, a smooth midsection and tail help it swim through a woman’s reproductive system to find an egg.
Of course, if sperm has a misshapen head, double or crooked tail then it is considered to be abnormal. But just because sperm is considered abnormal does not mean it is still unable to cause pregnancy. However, the more abnormal-shaped sperm there is less chance of pregnancy.
It is normal for many men to have a large number of abnormally shaped sperm. The normal range of normal sperm is considered to be between 4% and 14% of healthy-shaped sperm.
It should be noted that morphology testing is fairly new testing within a sperm analysis of only a decade old. With that being said there are some discrepancies with the morphology testing as well as the interpretation.
Motility testing in a sperm analysis is the movement of the sperm present in the sample. Sperm should have a forward motion to its movement to locate and penetrate an egg. The motility test also looks at the amount of sperm still moving after 30 minutes.
The normal range for motility after 30 minutes is 50%. The overall scale for measuring motility and velocity ranges on a scale of 0 to 4. This is what you are likely to see on a sperm analysis.
For motility, the number you do not want to see on a sperm analysis is 0. A zero indicates that no sperm a moving. A four on the other hand means that sperm have a forward trajectory and over 50% of the sperm sample is still moving after 30 minutes.
The ph test looks at how acidic the sample is. Why is this important? Too much acid indicates the presence of infection in the body. Low ph indicates there may be an obstruction in the ejaculatory ducts.
The normal range of ph in a given sample is 7.2 to 7.8.
No. More volume of a sperm sample does not mean more sperm or an increase in pregnancy rates. The normal volume range is 2 to 5 ml. Over 5 ml for a sample may indicate the sample is diluted and a low amount under 2 shows that there may not be enough sperm available in a given sample.
Liquification is the test that looks to see if the sperm changes from a thick gel state to a liquid state between 15 to 30 minutes. If the sample does not liquefy to a watery state up to 30 minutes after it is given it is an indication that sperm cannot travel well to meet an egg.
Looking Beyond The Numbers
Getting a sperm analysis is nerve-wracking for men. Not only will it tell you exactly what issues are happening with the male side of infertility, but it is a bit embarrassing for men since most samples are given in office. It’s not easy to ask a man to masturbate in an office setting with nothing but a small sample cup and (maybe) a few magazines.
However, it is a necessary and often the first step in determining if there is a male factor infertility issue. While it may be embarrassing for men to provide a sperm sample in office, it’s just as awkward for women to have intrauterine insemination as well!
Men tend to look too deep into the numbers on a sperm analysis. The amount of sperm a man has and his ability to impregnate a woman does not make a man a “real man.” A lack of sperm count, motility, and morphology does not mean a man is less of a man. While women do not correlate sperm count and “manliness” together, men do.
If you or your spouse is struggling with male factor infertility or low numbers on a sperm analysis, please know that you or your spouse are so much more than numbers on a sheet. Just because the numbers may paint a picture of low fertility, it doesn’t mean you or your spouse are not meant to have children.
It is just a roadblock or speed bump in your fertility journey. Don’t worry if the sperm analysis results are low there are options available to you or your spouse to help boost fertility.
What to do if sperm analysis results are low:
Option 1- If the numbers are slightly low, there are simple lifestyle changes that can be made. Check out the following articles to help increase sperm analysis naturally!
Option 2- See a male fertility specialist, also known as a urologist. A urologist can help diagnose and treat any underlying issues in the male reproductive system to help fix infertility issues. If lifestyle changes and natural remedies do not raise sperm count or motility within three to six months, you or your spouse should schedule an appointment with a urologist to rule out any underlying medical issues.
It’s hard for men and women alike to receive bad test results related to fertility and trying to have a baby. But a sperm analysis is just one of the necessary steps to help you or your spouse to have a baby. Honestly, it’s better to know the numbers along with the possible problems than to continue trying for a baby and still not get pregnant.
My husband and I are part of the 40% of infertile couples struggling with male factor infertility. Although it is heartbreaking to find out the actual numbers and the reason why we struggle to conceive, it’s better to know and receive fertility treatment than to continue to keep trying naturally to no avail.
Remember- Just because a sperm analysis yields low results and signals an infertility issue doesn’t mean it is a reflection of what makes a man. Men are more than their ability to get a woman pregnant.