Semen Test

Test tube containing semen specimen

The purpose of a semen test is to determine the health of a man’s sperm if he and his partner are having difficulty in conceiving a child. The man will ejaculate a sperm sample into a sterile container, which will be sent to a laboratory and examined to establish the number of sperm, whether they are normal, and if they are able to swim sufficiently strongly to make their way to the woman’s Fallopian tubes to fertilise an egg. The semen sample must reach the laboratory as soon as possible after ejaculation. Semen tests are also performed about six weeks after a vasectomy to ensure that the operation has been a success and the man is infertile. They may also be useful to diagnose the bacteria causing an infection of the prostate gland or epididymis (sperm draining tubules at the back of the testicle), or to detect cancer cells from a tumour in the testicle.

Normal results for a semen test

Volume 2.5 to 10 mL (average 4 mL).
Number of sperm More than 20,000,000/mL.
Motility (activity) More than 70% active.
Morphology (structure of sperm) More than 60% normal forms.
Colour Cream
Leucocytes (white cells) Less than 15/HPF.
Erythrocytes (red blood cells) Nil
Haemoglobin (Hb) Nil

Interpretation of abnormal results

Low volume count or motility Infertile
Over 70% abnormal form Infertile, mumps, orchitis (infection of testicles), poor nutrition, drugs, radiation, excess local heat, surgery, vas deferens infection, cryptorchidism (small testes from birth), germinal aplasia (failure of sperm producing cells in testes to develop), pituitary or thyroid hormone defects.
Colour white Infection
Colour clear Low sperm count
Colour clear Low sperm count
Colour red Injury to testicles, cancer, kidney damage, prostate gland damage
Leucocytes high Prostatitis (prostate gland infection), urethritis (infection of urine tube), epididymitis (infection of sperm collecting tubes), orchitis (infection of testicles).
Erythrocytes or haemoglobin high Injury, genital cancer, kidney damage


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