Semen analysis is a microscopic examination of a male sperm. The main goal is to evaluate the ability to have children. Semen is a fluid, which contains sperm - male reproductive cells. The quality and quantity of both semen and sperm cells are very important to fertilize eggs and make a woman pregnant.
If a couple is unable to have a child, one of the things that should be checked is the male reproductive system. For this purpose, semen sample must be taken.
Collecting sperm is usually a simple, noninvasive procedure. A man is invited to a private room, asked to masturbate until discharge of semen, and collect semen in a special container.
Due to some reasons some men don’t want or can’t collect a sample through masturbation. There are several ways to solve this problem.
- A special condom may be used to collect semen during intercourse.
- In the presence of reproductive tract blockage, surgical sperm removing from the testicle must be applied.
- Some anatomical abnormalities promote sperm to collect in the bladder. For those men, sperm can be collected from the urine after intercourse.
- Sperm can be surgically removed from the testicles if a man is unable to ejaculate.
Usually a semen sample contains enough number of sperm. It can easily be divided into several portions to storage for the further use. There are many factors that impact on a semen quality, therefore, the medical team can ask to collect more than one sample. Unnecessary at this time samples are mixed with cryoprotectors and frozen for over 20 years. A donor sperm is stored for six months, and then the donor is re-tested for infectious diseases, such as HIV. Only when all tests are negative, sperm are released for use.
Sperm, as well as woman eggs, can be preliminary collected and frozen before chemotherapy and radiation, if a patient has cancer or other diseases that require the same treatment method.
Semen is used to determine the following important features:
- Fluid volume
- The number of sperm (sperm count)
- The percentage of moving sperm (sperm motility)
- The percentage of normally shaped sperm (sperm morphology).
All men produce abnormal sperm. If this number reaches more than half, the semen sample is diagnosed as abnormal shaped. Although depending on the clinic, the results are interpreted differently. According to Kruger criteria, any minute irregularities are considered as abnormal. A patient is strongly advised not to use tobacco, drugs and limit alcohol consumption in a period of trying for a pregnancy. These diet rules will improve the shape and the quality of the sperm.
The genetic material of sperm can also be tested. All genetic information is coded in an acid called DNA. DNA damage can lead to abnormal sperm function, which is a serious risk of infertility. Several different laboratory tests can examine the DNA for damage, but the way of taking a sample stays the same. The analysis still remains experimental, so it is not included in the routine evaluation of an infertile couple.