Semen analysis: What we look for and what results mean

13th September 2013 in Fertility

This information was correct at the time of publishing. It may not reflect our current practices, prices or regulations.

Did you know that in around a third of cases of infertility, the issue lies with the man? Problems with sperm are common. Some men have a low sperm count, some have abnormally-shaped sperm and some don’t have any sperm at all.

When you come to Manchester Fertility for one of our Fertility MOTs, or visit your GP for tests to examine why you’re having trouble getting pregnant, one of the tests performed is a full semen analysis.

So what does a semen analysis involve? Typically, the main things we look for are:

Volume:We look to see exactly how much semen is produced in terms of volume of semen. You may only produce a relatively small amount, around 1.5ml, or you may produce more. A low semen volume could indicate a blockage or obstruction.

Number of sperm:We examine your sample to see how much sperm is contained in the semen, both overall and per millilitre. If your number of semen cells are below acceptable levels, then you would have a low sperm count.

Sperm motility:We will look at your sperm to see how many of them are ‘live’, motile and able to move properly. For natural conception to occur, your sperm has to be able to swim to the egg.

Sperm shape:This is called sperm morphology and this is when we look at the shape of your sperm cells. Our expert andrology team examines your sperm in detail – the shape of the head, tail and proportions are all carefully measured. Results are then compared to strict criteria to identify whether a sample has good morphology or poor morphology.  Poor morphology can impair a sperm’s ability to swim to the egg.

We also examine your semen sample for other factors, such as its consistency and its alkaline and acidity level, which can have an impact on fertilisation.

What’s important to remember is that having an ‘abnormal’ semen analysis result doesn’t mean you can’t have a child. And it may not always mean you need infertility treatment.

Depending on what the results show, simple changes could help make a big difference to sperm health. Lifestyle changes such as cutting back on smoking, drinking and dietary changes to reduce weight can help improve fertility.

And if you do need infertility treatment, remember that our expert team of fertility consultants will only ever recommend treatment which gives you the best chance of success. In many cases, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is appropriate – this is where we select a single, healthy sperm from your sample and inject it directly into the egg to fertilise it in our laboratory. This treatment overcomes many common issues with sperm, such as poor sperm motility or low sperm count.

If you’re concerned about your fertility, book in for one of our Fertility MOTs or visit your GP.

Last updated: 20th January 2020