A sperm analysis involves checking a sample of semen for overall sperm health.
The process can help doctors to determine the underlying cause of a person’s inability to conceive, or it may confirm the outcome of a vasectomy.
A sperm analysis tests for several markers of sperm health, including:
- the number of sperm in 1 milliliter (ml) of semen
- the size and shape of the sperm
- the ability of the sperm to move correctly
In this article, we describe the purpose and procedure involved in sperm analysis, and we explain what the results may mean.
People may require a sperm analysis for different reasons. Some individuals or couples will request a sperm analysis if they are having difficulty conceiving.
In couples that have been unable to conceive, some estimates suggest that there is a male factor present in 40 to 50 percent ofTrusted Source cases.
Up to 2 percentTrusted Source of men demonstrate issues with their sperm, resulting from one or a combination of:
- low sperm count in a sample of semen
- poor sperm movement, known as motility
- abnormal sperm size and shape, known as morphology
People may also have a sperm analysis to check if a vasectomy was successful. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that doctors carry out for permanent male sterilization.
Following a vasectomy, doctors typically recommend regular sperm analyses for several months to ensure there are no sperm remaining in the semen.
Usually, a doctor will require a person to provide a semen sample while in the doctor’s office.
The most common way to collect a sample is for a person to masturbate and ejaculate into a sterile cup. The doctor provides a private room for a person to do this.
In some cases, a person can collect the semen sample at home. A doctor can provide a special condom that allows a person to collect a semen sample during sexual activity.
Otherwise, a doctor may recommend that the person ejaculates into a collection cup while at home.
When collecting a sample at home, people must remember to keep it at room temperature and bring it to the laboratory within a short timescale after collection.
To make sure that the sample is usable, the doctor may require that a person:
- abstains from sex or masturbation for several days before the test
- does not avoid ejaculation for more than 14 days before the test
- avoids alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana before the sperm analysis
- does not use lubricants when collecting the sample
- informs the doctor of any medications or herbal remedies they are taking, before giving a sample
- avoids providing a sample when unwell or stressed