A semen analysis is one of the most basic ways to evaluate infertility in men. It gives the doctor information about your sperm count and quality, and how well the sperm cells are able to move. If any of these factors are abnormal, pregnancy may be more difficult or even impossible.
Even though the procedure isn’t invasive or painful, many men experience anxiety about having the test done. Having an idea of what to expect can make it a little easier and less nerve-wracking.
Making Your Appointment
When setting up the appointment, the lab will probably give you instructions on how to prepare. In most cases, abstaining from ejaculation from two to five days is common. This includes ejaculation from both intercourse and masturbation.
If you will be producing your sperm specimen at home, you may need to pick up a sterile container to use. Also, most clinics require that the sperm specimen be delivered to the lab within an hour or two of being produced. Please defer to the instructions given to you by your clinic if they are different from those listed above.
Producing at the Laboratory
Some clinics or labs require that you produce your sperm at the office where the testing will be run instead of at home. If this is the case, they will have a specific room or bathroom designated for that purpose. The staff will give you a container and escort you to the room, where they will explain where to leave the sample when you are finished. Sometimes there is a small window between the production room and the laboratory so that you can leave the sample in privacy. Other facilities require that you bring the sample back to the staff member assisting you. In either case, you will probably have to sign a form consenting for the test and acknowledging that the sample is yours.
Many men are worried about the stress of producing sperm “on demand.” In this case, it may be preferable and less stressful for them to produce at home instead of at the facility. In extreme cases, medication can be prescribed to help the sperm collection process.
Some men aren’t comfortable with or able to produce their sperm through masturbation. Particularly men of certain religions where masturbation is not permitted. In situations like this, it is very important to communicate with the laboratory staff about your needs. Either special arrangements can be made for you to produce at home, or some places will even allow you to bring a partner in to the room with you if necessary so that you can produce through intercourse. There are special condom collection kits that collect sperm during intercourse and the sample can then be poured into the sample cup. Ask if the facility has them available or you can purchase one yourself. You should avoid using lubricants when producing sperm through intercourse, as they can kill sperm cells.
The results should be available within a few days and given to you by your physician.