World Health Organization Reference Limits for Human Semen Characteristics

These are the new 2009 guidelines for spermanalysis and spermcount and semen parameters by the World Health Organization (WHO) At the end of 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) has published new reference guidelines for semen parameters.

These guidelines were generated by evaluating 4,500 men in 14 countries whose partners had less than or equal to 12 months time to pregnancy (TTP). WHO found that with a 95% confidence, men whose partners had TTP of 12 or fewer months had NO LESS than the following:

One-Sided Lower Reference Limit (Fifth Centiles With 95% Confidence Intervals)

  • Semen Volume 1.5 mL (1.4-1.7)
  • Total Sperm Number 39 million per ejaculate (33-46)
  • Sperm Concentration 15 million/mL (12-16 million/mL)
  • Vitality 58% Live (55-63%)
  • Progressive Motility 32% (31-34%)
  • Total Motility (Progressive + Non-Progressive) 40% (38-42%)
  • Morphologically Normal Forms 4.0% (3.0-4.0)

A diagnosis of male fertility or infertility cannot reliably be made based solely on a single semen parameter.

This group of fathers had significantly better semen quality than semen samples tested in the general population. It is important to note that falling below these levels does not necessarily mean that a male factor is causing a couples infertility. However, with lower numbers, it is a possible that there is a male factor in the couple's failing to conceive.

It is important that any clinic performing a semen analysis for a couple use these WHO guidelines to evaluate and interpret the sample.