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Sperm test – what is your semen analysis telling you?

Making a baby is definitely not a one person job. It is important to look at both parties when it comes to fertility. As more research is being done, it is estimated that 40-50% of fertility problems is due to male factors or a combination of female and male factors. Let’s look at why sperm health is important and what a sperm test can tell us.

When you and your partner are having trouble trying to conceive, your GP or fertility specialist will likely refer both of you to do some tests, including blood work, sperm test, pelvic ultrasound etc. Comparing all these tests, a sperm analysis is probably one of the easiest test to do. It is not as time sensitive and completely non-invasive. It gives us a good basic insight on how healthy your sperm is.

 

What do they look for in a sperm test?

 

A sperm test measures several markers of sperm health:

  • Semen volume – this is the amount of ejaculated fluid. The lowest normal reference range needed to do a proper test is 1.5ml.
  • Sperm count – this is measuring how many millions of sperm do you have per ml of semen. A normal sperm count would be more than 15 million.
  • Sperm motility – this is the forward motion of sperm movement. The normal range is at least 32% of progressive motility or 40% of combination of progression and non-progression.
    • Progressive motility – refers to sperm swimming in a straight line or in a large circle.
    • Non-progressive motility – refers to sperm swimming in other patterns.
  • Sperm morphology – this is the percentage of normal sperm shape in the semen. Above 4% is considered normal.

male_fertility_sperm_testBecause the reference only gives you the lowest figure, the so called “normal range” is very broad. Being at the lowest end or being much higher up is all considered normal. Please make sure you get a copy of the test result to know exactly where you at. It is important to keep in mind that the higher number, the higher chance of falling pregnant faster.

 

What are good levels of sperm?

 

In the last couple of decades sperm quality has declined rapidly and the reference ranges have been adjusted accordingly. So what is considered good sperm now, was possibly considered not so good 10-20 years ago. We have to keep this in mind when we look at your test results.

A population study looking at men’s fertility (1) found that those men that succeeded in fathering a child had:
  • Greater than 48 million sperm per ml.
  • A motility of more than 63%.
  • A normal morphology of 12%.

These levels are considerably higher than the standard references used nowadays.

 

Advanced sperm analysis.

 

Sometimes your doctor will recommend doing a more detailed semen analysis. Common tests are:

  • DNA fragmentation – this test looks at the DNA damage the sperm has. The lower number, the better chance of a successful pregnancy.
  • Antibodies – this test indicates if you have developed antibodies against your own sperm.

 

Can I improve my sperm quality?

 

Yes! Sperm takes 3 months to develop so any diet and lifestyle changes you make now will improve your fertility in 3 months. Some of the ways you can improve sperm are:

  • Improving_Sperm_HealthEat a healthy diet – warm and cooked food is easier for digestion, try and avoid cold and raw food and any food or drinks from the fridge. It is important to have a healthy digestive system as the gut and your reproductive system are connected in many ways.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight can negatively affect hormone health and sperm quality.
  • Quit smoking – smoking affects the hormonal health, sperm quality, and can damage DNA in the sperm.
  • Stay hydrated – dehydration can affect sperm quality and sperm quantity negatively. It also affects the ph level in your body, making the semen thicker.
  • Exercise regularly – exercise helps to boost testosterone level, improve circulation and therefore sperm function.
  • Stay away from heat – sperm is extremely sensitive to heat which is why the testicles are situated on the outside of the body. Heat can affect the sperm viability, sperm DNA integrity and sperm count. So it is important for men to stay away from hot baths, saunas, and long hours of booking and also avoid having cellphones in their pockets or laptops in their laps.
  • Take preconception vitamins.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications – some medications can affect fertility.
  • Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine herbs – fertility is not only about the reproductive system. In Chinese Medicine, we always want to look at your health holistically. For example, we will ask you about your sleep, stress levels, emotional well being, digestion and any pains and aches you’re having. All these factors can have an impact on your fertility and we will aim to improve your overall health as much as possible.
How can I make an appointment?

 

(1) Guzick, D., Overstreet, J., Factor-Litvak, P., Brazil, C., Nakajima, S., Coutifaris, C., Carson, S., Cisneros, P., Steinkampf, M., Hill, J., Xu, D. and Vogel, D., 2001. Sperm Morphology, Motility, and Concentration in Fertile and Infertile Men. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(19), pp.1388-1393.