Basic Semen Analysis
Basic semen analysis is also known as a sperm count test. A semen analysis measures the viability and health of male sperm. Semen is the bodily fluid that contains sperm (and other sugars and proteins) that is released during ejaculation.
Semen analysis is used to measure three major sperm health factors:
- Quantity of sperm
- Shape of the sperm cells
- Sperm motility (movement of the sperm)
Doctors will often order two or three separate sperm analyses to get an accurate idea of sperm health. Sperm counts may vary on a daily basis, so these tests should be performed at least seven days apart over the course of eight to twelve weeks. Your doctor should use the average of the sperm analysis results to determine your fertility level.
How Ejaculation Affects Semen Analysis
Certain factors can result in an inaccurate semen analysis. The most critical is ejaculating less than three days before the test. Providing a semen sample less than three days after the last ejaculation will result in both a lower semen volume and total sperm count (1).
The testicles continually produce sperm cells which are stored in the epididymis; a long tubular structure that exists for this purpose. Ejaculation empties the epididymis, and it can take two to three days for new sperm to refill it.
This issue doesn’t mean that abstaining for a longer period is better – sperm cells only last about three weeks before dying and breaking down in the body. Ideally, a man should abstain from ejaculation for between three and five days for the most accurate results.