A semen analysis is a test done on men to measure the amount and quality of their reproductive fluid called semen and their reproductive cells called sperm. A man’s reproductive system includes two glands called testicles or testes. They’re located inside a pouch of skin
called the scrotum. The scrotum is outside the body which keeps the testicles cool enough to make sperm.
Connected to each testicle is a mass of coiled tubes called the epididymis. Each epididymis stores immature sperm while they continue to develop during sex. Sperm travel through a tube attached to the epididymis called the vas deference to another tube called the ejaculatory duct. Their sperm mix with fluid from two glands called seminal vesicles as well as the prostate gland now called semen. This fluid mixture exits the body through the urethra, the tube inside the penis that usually carries urine during sex with a woman.
This process called ejaculation deposits semen in her vagina. Semen contains tens of millions of sperm. From the vagina sperm, can pass through the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. From the woman’s body fertilization of the egg marks the beginning of human development during pregnancy.
A man’s doctor may recommend a semen analysis if he is unable to get a woman pregnant after at least a year of unprotected sex or after six months if she’s over 40 or if he’s had a birth control procedure called a vasectomy. The test may be done to make sure there are no sperm in the semen. For semen analysis men need to provide a semen sample after not ejaculating for two to five days. Usually men collect semen in a sterile cup or jar after stimulating themselves to ejaculation called masturbating or a doctor may provide a special condom to collect the semen at home during sex. It’s important to collect all of the ejaculated semen. Samples collected at home should be kept at body temperature and returned to the lab within two hours for reliable results in the lab. The person testing the semen will look at the total amount or volume of the semen sample.
The normal volume range is one and a half to five milliliters or about a third of a teaspoon to one teaspoon. If the semen volume is too low it may not have enough sperm or enough fluid to nourish and help transport the sperm to a woman’s egg. The lab will also look at the thickness of the semen. If the semen is too thick the sperm will be trapped within it.
Next, three main tests will be done on the semen sample under a microscope. First, a test called a sperm count will measure the number of sperm per milliliter of semen. If the sperm count is low it decreases the chances of getting a woman pregnant. Second. a motility test will look at the way the sperm move or swim. If the sperm have poor motility they swim too slowly, don’t swim properly or don’t move at all. With poor motility the sperm may not be able to swim toward a woman’s egg to fertilize it. Third, a morphology test will look at the shape of the sperm. Sperm with abnormal morphology may have a shape that causes poor motility or the sperm may not be able to fertilize an egg even if they reach it.
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