When you and your partner can’t get pregnant, you need answers. You want to learn why you keep trying without success and what you can do to have the family you dream of.
For men and women, the first step is scheduling an infertility evaluation with Fangyin Meng, MD, PhD. Dr. Meng specializes in finding the reason why you can’t get pregnant, then working together with you and your partner to determine the best way to help you have a baby.
Male infertility occurs in about one-third of all couples. And when male infertility is a factor, it’s most often caused by a problem with sperm. That’s why men begin their infertility evaluation with a semen analysis.
All about sperm
Since sperm problems often cause male infertility, let’s begin by exploring sperm development. After the testicles produce sperm, the immature cells enter a tube-shaped structure called the epididymis.
The epididymis protects and nourishes the sperm. It also releases biochemicals essential for sperm maturation. Sperm mature as they slowly move through the long, twisted tube. During this time, they gain the ability to move and other important qualities needed to fertilize an egg.
Fully developed sperm are stored at the end of the epididymis until you ejaculate. Before ejaculation, sperm move into another tube, the vas deferens, that carries them to the ejaculatory duct. That’s where they combine with semen right before you ejaculate.
Any problem that occurs during this process can affect the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.
Preparing for a semen analysis
There’s only one thing you need to do to prepare for your semen analysis: You should not have sex or masturbate at least 2-3 days before your scheduled test. However, you should not go longer than five days without sex. These steps ensure your sperm count and quality are optimal, which gives us the most accurate results.
Obtaining your semen sample
We need to evaluate your semen as quickly as possible and no more than two hours after ejaculation. For this reason, men provide a semen sample by going into a private room in the clinic, masturbating, and collecting their ejaculate in a sterile cup. If you don’t masturbate due to religious or other reasons, we can make other arrangements.
Information gained through a semen analysis
Your semen sample immediately goes to the lab, where it’s evaluated for key pieces of information that can affect your ability to get pregnant, including:
The number of sperm ejaculated has a significant impact on your ability to fertilize your partner’s egg. A low sperm count is one of the top causes of male infertility.
Sperm shape (morphology)
Evaluating sperm morphology means we look at the sperm’s shape. Abnormally shaped sperm can’t penetrate an egg, which means they can’t fertilize it. Your semen analysis reports the percentage of normal and abnormal sperm.
Motility refers to how well the sperm can move. Healthy sperm need to have fast, forward movement to reach and fertilize their partner’s egg. We determine the number of sperm in your semen sample that has good versus bad motility.
The quality of your semen also affects your fertility. Semen transports sperm and contains fructose (a sugar) and enzymes that help sperm survive and reach the egg.
We assess several essential qualities, including the amount, thickness, acidity, and sugar content of your semen. We may also look for the presence of white blood cells, a sign that you may have inflammation or an infection.
If your semen analysis reveals any abnormalities, we talk with you about what they mean and explain your next step. In some cases, we may need to do other diagnostic tests. For example, a low sperm count may be caused by a blockage in the tubes, so we perform an ultrasound to get images of the tubes.
If you have any questions about getting a semen analysis or you need to schedule an infertility evaluation, call Fangyin Meng, MD, PhD, or book an appointment online today.