Semen analysis is the single most important test of male fertility. It is proper to do a semen analysis early on in the evaluation of an infertile couple. In 50% of cases of infertility the male factor is the cause for childlessness.
The thought of having to collect a semen sample for analysis may be uncomfortable ethically and emotionally for men. It is important to understand before hand the right way to go about it.
During the week before the test make sure you avoid hot tubs, saunas, being near hot grills, laptops and the like. Exposures to high heat can cause premature sperm death and will impact motility results. If you have had prolonged exposures to high heat as in hot tub use, long periods of sitting, occupational heat exposures, laptops or a fever over 100 degrees in the past three months, it is worth mentioning this fact to the doctor, as sperm takes upto 10 weeks to regenerate.
As an added precaution you should avoid alcohol, caffeine, two to five days before the test and stop taking any herbal medications or hormones. It would be best to inform the doctor of any regular medication that you may be on.
Care must be taken in the actual collection of the sample of semen. A sterile collection container must be obtained from the testing centre for collecting the sample. The best sample will be after 72 hours of abstinence from sex. There is no need to abstain for a longer time than that.
The best way to obtain a sample is through masturbation. The entire ejaculate must be collected into the sterile collection container. It is very important to collect the entire sample, especially the first part of the ejaculate as it contains most of the sperm. There should be no use of any lubricants, lotions, gels, etc for the collection of the sample as these items will alter the sample.
As semen is very sensitive the specimen must be kept at room temperature and promptly brought to the lab within 30-40 minutes. Samples can be adversely affected by heat, air-conditioning and extreme temperatures. It is best to keep the sample near body temperature on the way to the lab and this can be achieved by simply placing sample cup in between the legs.
Typically, semen analysis is performed by a technician who will literally take a drop of the sample, place it on a microscope slide and analyze it under a microscope for sperm count, morphology and mobility.
Semen analysis is the first step towards understanding a man’s fertility.