The key to achieving fatherhood is to have a healthy semen and to be able to deposit it naturally by sexual intercourse into your partner. The semen contains sperms which fuse with the egg of your partner to form an embryo. The embryo is the first version of your baby which will grow in the womb to your future generation.
Often couples are unable to conceive despite trying for a long period of time. In such situations when the couple has tried naturally for about an year, there is a recommendation to see a fertility specialist to find out where the problem is.
As per research, men are responsible for 50% of the problem and the best way to check this is to get a semen analysis. Many men are also concerned about their fertility potential for various reasons and for them as well. If you need to provide a semen sample for testing, here are the general steps to follow:-
Before You Collect a Sample
Abstain from ejaculation: It's usually recommended to abstain from ejaculation for a period of 2 to 5 days before providing the sample. It should be more than 2 days from your last ejaculation but not more than 7 to 10 days. This allows for a correct evaluation of the sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Obtain a clean, sterile container specifically designed for collecting semen samples. You can usually obtain one from the clinic or laboratory where the testing will be conducted. Make sure the container is free from any contaminants.
Wash hands: Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water to ensure cleanliness and reduce the risk of introducing any foreign substances.
There are a couple of methods you can use to collect the semen sample:
Masturbation: This is the most common method. You can stimulate yourself manually to achieve ejaculation. It's important to ejaculate directly into the provided container. Avoid using lubricants or condoms that may interfere with the sample.
Special condom: Some clinics may provide a special non-latex condom that you can use during sexual intercourse to collect the semen sample. Follow the instructions provided by the clinic for using this method.
Complete sample: Ensure that the entire ejaculate is collected in the container. Try to minimise any loss of the sample during the collection process.
Label the container: Write your name, date of collection, and any other required information on the container label. This helps to avoid mix-ups and ensures accurate identification.
Transport: Close the container tightly and place it in a bag or packaging provided by the laboratory. Follow any specific instructions given by the laboratory regarding transportation and delivery of the sample.
It's important to deliver the sample to the laboratory within the specified time frame to maintain sample integrity or try to give the sample at the laboratory/Clinic to avoid any misconduct.
Remember, each clinic or laboratory may have its own specific instructions and requirements for providing a semen sample. It's always best to consult with the healthcare provider or laboratory staff beforehand to ensure you follow their guidelines accurately.
When does a report typically come?
A report of semen analysis typically includes various parameters that assess the quality and quantity of sperm in a semen sample. The approximate time for receiving the report can vary depending on the laboratory or healthcare facility where the analysis is performed. However, in most cases, the report is usually available within an hour to few days after the semen sample is provided.
What to look for in this report?
The parameters measured in a semen report include:
Volume: This refers to the total amount of semen in the ejaculate and is typically measured in millilitres (mL). The normal range is typically between 1.5 mL and 5 mL.
Sperm count: This measures the concentration of sperm cells in the semen and is usually reported as the number of sperm per millilitre (million/mL) or per ejaculate (million). The normal range is typically above 15 million/ml per ejaculate.
Motility: This assesses the percentage of sperm cells that are actively moving. It is usually reported as the percentage of sperm with progressive motility (moving forward) and non-progressive motility (moving but not in a straight line). The normal range for total motility (progressive and non-progressive) is typically above 40%, with progressive motility being above 32%.
Morphology: This examines the shape and structure of sperm cells. It assesses the percentage of sperm cells with a normal shape, as abnormalities in morphology can affect fertility. The WHO (World Health Organization) criteria is commonly used to evaluate morphology. The normal range varies depending on the criteria used but is typically above 4% to 14%.
pH: This measures the acidity or alkalinity of the semen. The normal range is typically between 7.2 and 8.0.
Liquification time: After ejaculation, semen goes through a process called liquification where it changes from a gel-like consistency to a more liquid form. The time taken for complete liquification is measured in minutes. Normal liquification time is usually within 15 minutes at room temperature.
White blood cells (WBCs): The presence of white blood cells in semen may indicate inflammation or infection. Normal values are typically less than 1 million/mL.
It's important to note that the reference values for semen parameters may vary slightly between different laboratories and organisations. The values mentioned above are general guidelines of WHO.,but it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who can interpret the results in the context of an individual's specific situation.
What to do if things are not in place ?
When a semen analysis report comes back as abnormal, it indicates that there are certain parameters of the semen that deviate from the normal range. This can be concerning for individuals or couples who are trying to conceive.
While it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised advice, here are some general steps you can take:-
Repeat the Test: Semen analysis results can vary due to various factors such as stress, illness, or recent ejaculation. To ensure accuracy, it's recommended to repeat the test at least twice with a gap of several weeks between each test.
Consult with a Specialist: Make an appointment with a urologist and andrologist.They are experts in diagnosing and treating fertility issues and can provide detailed guidance based on your specific situation.
Review Lifestyle Factors: Certain lifestyle choices can affect semen quality. Discuss with your doctor the following factors that can influence semen parameters:
Healthy Diet: Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Exercise Regularly: Engage in moderate exercise regularly, as it can help improve overall health, including reproductive health.
Avoid Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drugs: Limit or avoid alcohol consumption, smoking, and the use of recreational drugs, as they can negatively impact fertility.
Manage Stress: High levels of stress can affect fertility. Explore stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or counselling.
Avoid Heat and Toxins: Avoid excessive heat exposure to the testicles, such as hot baths or saunas. Minimize exposure to toxins, chemicals, or pesticides that could affect sperm quality.
Medications and Supplements: Depending on the underlying cause of the abnormal semen analysis, your doctor may prescribe medications or supplements to address specific issues. These can range from hormonal therapies to antioxidants or vitamins that support sperm health.
Treat Underlying Conditions: If there are any underlying medical conditions contributing to the abnormal semen analysis, such as infections or hormonal imbalances, appropriate treatment will be recommended.
Assisted Reproductive Techniques: In some cases, assisted reproductive techniques, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF), may be recommended to increase the chances of conception.
Remember, every situation is unique, and it's crucial to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of the abnormal semen analysis and develop a personalised treatment plan.