A complete semen analysis measures the quantity and quality of the fluid released during ejaculation. It evaluates both the liquid portion, called semen or seminal fluid, and the microscopic, moving cells called sperm. It is often used in the evaluation of male infertility.

A sperm analysis tests for several markers of sperm health, including:

  • the number of sperm in 1 milliliter (ml) of semen
  • the size and shape of the sperm
  • the ability of the sperm to move correctly

In this article, we describe the purpose and procedure involved in sperm analysis, and we explain what the results may mean.


Normal sperm counts

normal sperm count

To test a person’s sperm count, a doctor will ask the person to ejaculate into a specimen cup. They will send this specimen to a laboratory, where technicians will evaluate the sample for the estimated sperm count and other factors. The results may vary depending on the laboratory.

Additional semen analysis aspects

normal sperm count fertility test

Semen analysis is a laboratory test that measures several factors in addition to a person’s sperm count. These include:

  • Liquefaction: This is the ability of semen to change from a gel to a liquid state. If the sperm does not liquefy in about 15–20 minutes, the sperm may not be able to adequately travel to fertilize an egg.
  • Morphology: The size and shape of the sperm can affect fertility. While all semen samples contain abnormally shaped sperm, the more defects that are present, the higher the likelihood of infertility.
  • Motility and velocity: These are measurements of how well sperm can swim to fertilize an egg and how fast the sperm travel.
  • pH: This is a measurement of how acidic or basic the semen is. The average pH of semen is 7.2–7.8. A higher pH could indicate an infection. A lower pH could indicate that the sample is contaminated, or that there is an obstruction in the reproductive system.
  • Total semen volume: This is the amount of semen a person ejaculates. Males typically ejaculate 2–5 ml of semen. If there is less than this in the sample, a doctor may look for prostate gland or seminal vesicle problems. If the amount is excessive, the sperm concentration may be too diluted.

Some laboratories may conduct further testing, depending on the technology available.

According to research from 2012, there are two major determinants of sperm count. These are the number of cells needed for sperm production, or Sertoli cells, and the time since a person last ejaculated.

How to Improve your Sperm Health?

  • smoking: Smoking definitely effect your sperm, as it nicotine and tar in the cigarettes cause vasoconstriction to veins feeding the testicles which results in marked low sperm count compared to normal men.
  • Nutrition: High blood cholesterol effecting the sperm count drastically as Fat cells in the body release an enzyme called aromatase, which breaks down testosterone into estrogen. This can decrease testosterone and sperm count.
  • stress: Stress may cause changes in the shape of sperm and affect fertility, according to the authors of a 2018 study.
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