Semen analysis - fertility

Keywords: Semen fertility test, Sperm count


A laboratory performing semen analysis should provide an appropriate private collection facility. 

Clearly written instructions should be provided regarding the collection and transportation of the specimen. 

A period of two to five days ejaculatory abstinence is recommended and the interval must be recorded. 

A complete ejaculate must be collected in a sterile non-toxic wide-mouth container. 

Lubricants and condoms should not be used. 

The specimen must be maintained between body and room temperature and protected from chilling or heating. 

This is best undertaken by transporting the container close to the body and preferably in contact with the skin. 

The specimen must be received in the laboratory within one hour of collection. The time of collection, the method of collection and whether any of the specimen was lost during the collection process must be recorded. 

Several semen samples, collected over a 3-6 week period, should be examined if an abnormality is noted in the first sample. 

Special instructions are required if retrograde ejaculation is suspected (see reference). 

In certain cases a sperm mucus penetration test (Kremer test) or sperm function test utilising direct evaluation of sperm-oocyte interaction may be indicated. 

In such instances the laboratory staff should be consulted directly.


Seminal fluid is assessed for volume and appearance, liquefaction and pH. 

Microscopic examination includes assessment of sperm concentration, motility, vitality and morphology. 

A leukocyte cell count and assessment of sperm antibodies (usually by direct immunobead test or mixed antiglobulin reaction) is also undertaken.

Reference Interval:

Volume: > 1.5 mL

Concentration: > 14 x 106/mL

Total motility: > 39%

Normal morphology: > 3%

Semen analysis is used to assess male infertility which may be due to a variety of causes. 

Absence of sperm or reduced sperm numbers is seen in testicular failure, primary or secondary germ cell arrest, genital tract obstruction and congenital abnormality, vasectomy and retrograde ejaculation.


McLachlan RI et al. Pathology 2003; 35: 25-33.

WHO Laboratory Manual for the Examination and Processing of Human Semen. 5th ed. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2010.

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