How is sperm tested?

A man’s sperm is tested using a test called a semen analysis. Sperm tests are used to try to predict the ability of the sperm to fertilise the egg.

To do this test, a man needs to ejaculate into a sterile plastic pot and take the sample to an accredited andrology laboratory which will determine a number of different features of the sperm. Semen analyses evaluate sperm features in the sample against stringent criteria set by the World Health Organisation (WHO 2010).

For reliable results, it is critical that semen production is performed properly:

  1. The male should abstain from ejaculation for 2-7 days prior to the test
  2. All the sample should be collected into a wide-mouth sterile plastic container
  3. The sample must be delivered to the lab within 45-60 minutes of production

A number of parameters are analysed in the semen sample. The three key ones are:

  1. Sperm concentration which should be greater than 15 million sperm/millilitre
  2. Progressive sperm motility (or the proportion swimming fast in a straight line) which should be 32% or more
  3. The proportion of normally shaped sperm (or normal morphology) which should be 4% or more