Sperm plays a very important role in the fertility process, so understanding the shape, count, size, and overall makeup of your sperm will be an important factor in determining fertility potential.
what is a sperm analysis
the semen analysis is a standard screening test in a fertility assessment. whether you use a partner’s or a donor’s sperm, it is important to screen the semen sample for quality and quantity.
a semen analysis is an exam of semen under a microscope to determine if the semen is viable. we will look at volume and ph (how acidic or basic the specimen is). we also check for an appropriate number (count) of normal appearing (morphology) moving (motile) and living (viable) sperm, and minimal presence of other microorganisms or white blood cells (which could cause concern for possible infection).
despite our ability to assess sperm quality and quantity, the semen analysis does not predict natural fertility with precision. however, when the semen analysis is abnormal it may indicate underlying issues that should be addressed both for fertility and overall health. the results are also used in conjunction with the complete fertility evaluation and overall reproductive goals, to help tailor a reproductive treatment plan.
sperm count and volume
this is the actual number of sperm in the specimen. a normal count ranges from 15 to 80 million sperm/ml (milliliter). anything below this is considered low, and referred to as oligospermia. this can be from varicocele (enlarged veins which disrupt blood flow and temperature to the testes), infection, ejaculation issues, medications, hormones, exposure to chemicals, overheating, drug and alcohol use, or weight problems. getting this diagnosis may seem scary, but there are treatment options available.
a normal volume can range from 2.0 – 5.0 ml (a ml is approximately the amount in a teaspoon).
when low volume is found, this can be due to various physiological reasons, including an obstruction in the ejaculatory ducts.
motility refers to how sperm swim. healthy sperm motility is defined as sperm with forward progression of at least 25 micrometers per second. it’s considered normal for half of the sperm to be moving. poor sperm motility is called asthenospermia or asthenozoospermia. there are different types of sperm motility issues, including:
under a powerful microscope, your embryologist will watch how fast the sperm move, if they are moving in a forward direction, and if this direction is in a straight line.
sperm morphology refers to the size and shape of the sperm. abnormally shaped sperm may have a hard time fertilizing an egg to create an embryo. the abnormal shape can be from an exposure to chemicals, toxins, or other issues. abnormal sperm have head or tail defects — such as a large or misshapen head or a crooked or double tail. these defects might affect the ability of the sperm to reach and dissolve the outer layer of the egg.