Monday, 28 April 2014

Understanding the Results of Semen Analysis - Sperm Structure and Motility

Male infertility contributes about 33 % in failure of conceiving. If you are trying to have babies but the attempts were left futile, then one of the important tests that men should undergo is Semen Analysis Test. The test would determine the man’s sperm count, motility and production, which are important for pregnancy.

Anatomy of sperm divides it into three sections:  

  • Head
  • Midpiece
  • Tail

For a sperm to be considered normal, all the three above sections should be have specific structure for motility. A little description would help you understand about these three sections and what actually is determined in sperm test.

What is a Sperm Made of?

Under the microscope, the trisection of sperm is observed more closely,

Head, having larger surface area than the other two sections stores all the genetic material. Now, if the sperm has an abnormal head, it is incapable of fertilizing an egg.

Midpiece, an area between head and tail of a sperm contains fructose, which gives the sperm required energy to gain speed and move faster.

Finally, the tail for forward motion and it gives thrust to the sperm. So, a sperm with no tail, two tails, or coiled tails are abnormal, and won’t help with getting pregnant.

What Does Your Semen Analysis Mean?

Once you are handed over the report of your sperm test, you see the terminologies, sperm volume, concentration, motility, or morphology. Don’t get confused! These terminologies would be reliable source of information if you know,
  1. Normal sperm volume (amount) – Between 1.5 and 5 ml.
  2. Normal sperm concentration – greater than 20 million sperm/ml or a total of greater than 40 million per ejaculate.
  3. Normal sperm motility - more than 40% of the sperm should be moving.
  4. Normal sperm morphology - more than about 30% of sperm should be normally shaped.
  5. Normal sperm forward progression - at least 2, on a scale of 1 to 4.
  6. Sperm white blood cells - no more than 0 to 5 per high-power field.
  7. Sperm hyperviscosity - the semen should gel promptly, but should liquefy within 30 minutes after the sample is taken.
  8. Sperm pH - alkaline, to protect sperm from the acidic environment of the woman’s vagina.

Special instructions to collect sperm for a semen analysis

Before undergoing the test, men should,

  • Abstain from sexual intercourse for 2-3 days before providing semen for analysis;
  • Generally, the sample is frequently collected by masturbation. But, sometimes the technicians might also collect it after sexual intercourse, using a special condom that lacks spermicidal agents that are detrimental to sperm.
  • The sample may be collected at home or in an appropriate laboratory.
  • Men undergoing the test should ensure that the sample is kept at room or body temperature and is tested within an hour of collection.

Remember, your sperm test results may vary with unusual sperm count, motility, or production, if you were not well, going through routine medications or ill, taking medication.

Dr Neeraj Pahlajani

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