Pacific Reproductive Center offers on-site laboratory semen analysis as the first step in male fertility testing, helping men and couples identify the cause or causes of their fertility challenges.
If your sperm count is low, the seminal fluid you expel during an orgasm contains fewer sperm cells than what the average fertile male will produce.
The clinical term for an abnormally low number of sperm is oligospermia. The absence of all sperm is called azoospermia. You are deemed to have a low sperm count if you have fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of ejaculate fluid (semen).
An insufficient sperm count decreases the likelihood of one of your sperm fertilizing your partner’s egg, thereby reducing the odds of a successful pregnancy. Nevertheless, many men with low sperm counts can conceive a child with the right reproductive support.
Typically, the first stage of male fertility testing involves semen analysis. It is always recommended that men have their semen analyzed when pregnancy isn’t naturally achieved, regardless of whether male factor or female factor infertility is suspected. When a couple seeks medical assistance for conceiving, the doctor will want to rule out issues related to the male.
An Overview of Male Fertility Testing
To achieve the most accurate results from semen analysis and fertility testing, the male should refrain from ejaculation for approximately five days. The semen sample is collected via manual stimulation (masturbation) in either a sterilized cup or a special condom (standard condoms are not permitted due to the potential presence of lubricants and/or spermicidal agents, which can kill sperm).
Semen samples must be evaluated quickly; ideally, a sample will be provided at the fertility center so that laboratory analysis can take place within an hour or less. Another sample will have to be provided roughly one month following the initial analysis to verify the results.
In a basic semen analysis, doctors look at the following factors:
- Sperm count: In addition to the number of individual sperm cells within the semen sample, sperm count assesses the number of sperm per millimeter of ejaculate fluid. The normal sperm concentration is 15 million sperm per mL.
- Sperm motility: The ability of the sperm to make sufficient forward progression is critical; if the sperm are sluggish or immobile, they can’t advance into the fallopian tubes and fertilize the egg within. Poor sperm motility is an indication of male factor infertility.
- Sperm morphology: Sperm morphology refers to the size and shape of the sperm cell. Sperm cells that are optimally shaped typically constitute approximately 14 percent of the total sperm count. Properly formed sperm should have a tail in order to make its way to the egg, a midpiece complete with mitochondria to give the sperm energy, a head where the nucleus is contained, and an acrosomal vesicle at the tip of the sperm containing enzymes which help the sperm penetrate the egg.
The overall quality of the semen sample must also be evaluated. The following conditions are assessed:
- Semen pH: Ideal semen alkalinity should be approximately pH 7.2 or slightly higher. The semen’s alkalinity effectively neutralizes the naturally acidic vaginal environment and facilitates sperm viability.
- Antibodies: Semen analysis checks for evidence of anti-sperm antibodies. The presence of anti-sperm antibodies is the result of an immune response that mistakenly targets sperm. Both women and men can produce anti-sperm antibodies.
- Presence of white blood cells: White blood cells in semen indicate an infection.
- Semen viscosity: Semen that is insufficiently liquid can inhibit sperm motility.
Semen analysis checks for any indications of suboptimal sperm performance and helps to point to structural abnormalities or infections that can be corrected. Subsequent tests might include screenings for the following:
- Physical blockages
- Hormonal anomalies or low testosterone
- Allergies to medications or medication side effects
Male Infertility Treatment
In many cases, the conditions contributing to male subfertility can be corrected by minimally invasive surgical intervention, lifestyle changes, or certain medications. However, when the cause of the low sperm count is unclear, several fertility treatments can significantly enhance the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) might be an effective solution because it involves a technique known as “sperm washing.” This procedure concentrates the volume of healthy, motile sperm within a sperm sample by isolating it from the rest of the seminal fluid. The healthy sperm are then inserted directly into the uterus during ovulation.
Additionally, In vitro fertilization combined with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) could offer exceptional outcomes for men suffering from male-factor infertility. This is an extremely effective option for those with fertility issues since ICSI only requires one sperm for every egg and can facilitate fertilization even in cases where sperm are morphologically abnormal or less than mobile.
Start Working towards the Family You Want with Us
The fertility specialists at Pacific Reproductive Center will help you determine the best course for helping you achieve a healthy full-term pregnancy.
Please contact our helpful team today to discuss your fertility options.