Infertility in couples is not always confined to the woman. In fact, research data suggests that nearly half of all infertile couples have a male component. When facing infertility , a male semen analysis is one of the most important tests that a couple can have, and should be completed early in the infertility evaluation.
Men may have a normal semen volume and still be sub fertile. Viable sperm must be produced in the testicles, transported through the vas deferens past the prostate gland, through the urethra, and ejaculated out the penis. Once deposited in the vagina, they must swim through the cervical mucus, past the cervix, and into the uterus. Sperm must attach to and penetrate an egg to cause fertilization.
In general, the semen analysis includes:
- Volume of sperm in the ejaculate- the normal value is more than 20 million sperm/milliliter.
- Motility (ability to swim)-More than 50% should be actively motile (moving)
- More than 14% normal forms- the heads and tails are properly shaped.
- Less than 5 white blood cells per high power microscope field. More could indicate infection.
- Other characteristics, such as viscosity, are also evaluated.
The time required for sperm cells to develop to maturity is three months. A semen analysis done today reflects the conditions affecting sperm development three months ago.
Factors that can affect sperm count include occupation, high fever and/or infection, environmental toxins, alcohol, heavy metal exposure, smoking, etc. Semen analysis done today may be low because of conditions that existed three months ago. Conversely, actions taken today to correct the problem will not yield improvement for three months.