What is sperm evaluation?
A sperm evaluation is when a fertility specialist collects semen samples from a man. The sample is sent to a laboratory where the sperm is studied. The most common focus is on the quality of the sperm, as well as if the semen contains abnormalities such as a sign of infection. With the sperm, the analysis will look at the morphology, or shape, as well as sperm motility or movement. Keep in mind that sperm counts can vary widely between samples so don’t be surprised if a specialist requires multiple samples to verify accurate results.
What do the results mean?
A sperm evaluation can provide a window into the health of a man’s reproductive capabilities. For example, semen that is considered normal should change from a gel into a liquid consistency within 20 minutes of being ejaculated. If the transformation doesn’t take place, a physician may suspect an underlying condition such as a problem with a man’s seminal vesicles or a blocked ejaculatory duct. However, test results that show low sperm counts or no sperm don’t automatically mean that a man is permanently infertile. In the above scenario, a fertility specialist may order additional testing to pinpoint the cause of the abnormality.
What additional tests may be recommended?
If the sperm evaluation highlights irregularities in a man’s sample, a physician may recommend a transrectal ultrasound, testicular biopsy, or even testing hormone levels. A testicular biopsy requires taking a tissue sample from each testicle for a more thorough microscopic review. But the biopsy can also serve an additional purpose to extract sperm if the couple needs to rely on assisted reproduction. The transrectal ultrasound can check for physiological abnormalities or blockage in the ejaculatory ducts. And the hormonal profile can determine irregular levels of critical hormones like the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which can impact sperm production.
An infertility diagnosis can be devastating for a couple to hear. And many men may experience insecurities around such a diagnosis. But infertility doesn’t mean that a couple won’t ever conceive. If a man suspects that poor sperm quality may be lowering chances of conceiving, speaking to a fertility specialist is a good idea. Whether through assisted reproduction or lifestyle changes to improve sperm quality, male infertility doesn’t put an end to a couple’s conception journey. Speak with a fertility specialist to learn more about treatment options.