Here are a few tips on reading and understanding your semen analysis, including a description of what a normal sperm looks like.
“A normal sperm has three sections: a head, a midpiece, and a tail,” writes Sharon Perkins and Jackie Meyers-Thompson in Infertility For Dummies (a great resource for couples who want to get pregnant!). “All three parts need to be normal for a sperm to be considered normal, according to the strict Kruger morphology, a system for evaluating sperm…”
Since male infertility accounts for about 33% of not getting pregnant for couples, it’s important to get a semen analysis done if you can’t get pregnant. A man’s sperm count, motility, or production is very important to pregnancy!
If you’re worried about male fertility, read A Guy’s Guide to the World of Infertility.
And, here’s a description of the three parts of a sperm, plus information on what sperm test results mean…
What is a Sperm Made of?
Though sperm are teeny tiny, laboratory technicians can see their details under a microscope (which is what will happen during a semen analysis or sperm test).
- The head of a sperm contains all the genetic material, so a sperm with an abnormal head can’t fertilize an egg.
- The midpiece of a sperm contains fructose, which is the energy it needs to move rapidly.
- The tail of a sperm is necessary for propulsion. Sperm with no tail, two tails, or coiled tails are abnormal, and won’t help with getting pregnant.
“Most laboratories can do a ‘screening’ semen analysis,” writes Sharon Perkins and Jackie Meyers-Thompson in Infertility For Dummies. “However, the determination of morphology (proportion of ‘normal’ forms)…takes a high level of expertise, and is generally only available at a bona fide fertility program.”
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What Does Your Semen Analysis Mean?
Okay, you’ve received the results of your sperm test…and you have no idea what sperm volume, concentration, motility, or morphology really means! Have no fear: the following parameters are from the World Health Organization (WHO) – a reliable source of medical information.
Normal sperm volume (amount) is 1.5 to 5 ml, or about a teaspoon.
Normal sperm concentration should be greater than 20 million sperm/ml, or a total of greater than 40 million per ejaculate.
Normal sperm motility means that more than 40% of the sperm should be moving (swim forward, mates!).
Normal sperm morphology means that more than about 30% of sperm should be normally shaped, as determined by the lab technician. If the lab uses the more strict Kruger criteria, normal sperm morphology should be 14%.
Normal sperm forward progression is at least 2, on a scale of 1 to 4 (this part of the sperm test measures how many sperm are moving forward).
Sperm white blood cells should be no more than 0 to 5 per high-power field. More could indicate infection.
Sperm hyperviscosity means that the semen should gel promptly, but should liquefy within 30 minutes after the sample is taken.
Sperm Ph should be alkaline, to protect sperm from the acidic environment of the woman’s va-jay-jay.
If you’re worried about the health of your sperm, read Low Sperm Count – How Do I Make Healthy Sperm?
And, if you’ve done a sperm test (or are preparing to do a sperm test), remember that semen samples can vary from month to month – or even day to day! It takes 72 days for sperm to develop. How does this affect the semen analysis or sperm test results? If you were ill, taking medication, or had anything unusual going on three months before the sperm test, then the results may not be indicative of normal sperm count, motility, or production.
For more male fertility tips, read What Causes Unexplained Infertility in Men? Damaged DNA in Sperm.
I hope this helps you read the results of your sperm test…don’t give up on your dream of getting pregnant!