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A semen analysis is usually one of the first tests done to help determine whether a man has a problem fathering a child ( infertility ). A problem with the semen or sperm affects more than one-third of the couples who are unable to have children (infertile).
Tests that may be done during a semen analysis include:
Why It Is Done
A semen analysis is done to determine whether:
How To Prepare
You may be asked to avoid any sexual activity that results in ejaculation for 2 to 5 days before a semen analysis. This helps ensure that your sperm count will be at its highest, and it improves the reliability of the test. If possible, do not avoid sexual activity for more than 1 to 2 weeks before this test, because a long period of sexual inactivity can result in less active sperm.
You may be asked to avoid drinking alcohol for a few days before the test.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any medicines or herbal supplements you are taking.
How It Is Done
You will need to produce a semen sample, usually by ejaculating into a clean sample cup. You can do this in a private room or in a bathroom at your doctor's office or clinic. If you live close to your doctor's office or clinic, you may be able to collect the semen sample at home and then transport it to the office or clinic for testing.
If any of these methods are against your beliefs, talk with your doctor about different methods of collection.
If you collect the semen sample at home, the sample must be received at the laboratory or clinic within 1 hour. Keep the sample out of direct sunlight and do not allow it to get cold or hot. If it is a cold day, carry the semen sample container against your body to keep it as close to body temperature as possible. Do not refrigerate the semen sample.
Since semen samples may vary from day to day, 2 or 3 different samples may be evaluated within a 3-month period for accurate testing.
A semen analysis to test the effectiveness of a vasectomy is usually done 6 weeks after the vasectomy.
How It Feels
Producing a semen sample does not cause any discomfort. But you may feel embarrassed about the method used to collect it.
There are no risks associated with collecting a semen sample.
A semen analysis measures the amount of semen a man produces and determines the number and quality of sperm in the semen sample. Results of a semen analysis are usually available within a day. Normal values may vary from lab to lab.
Certain conditions may be linked with a low or absent sperm count. These conditions include orchitis , varicocele , Klinefelter syndrome , radiation treatment to the testicles , or diseases that can cause shrinking (atrophy) of the testicles (such as mumps ).
If a low sperm count or a high percentage of sperm abnormalities are found, further testing may be done. Other tests may include measuring hormones, such as testosterone , luteinizing hormone (LH) , follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) , or prolactin . A small sample ( biopsy ) of the testicles may be needed for further evaluation if the sperm count or motility is extremely low.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
What To Think About
Last Revised: May 1, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
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