It's not always smooth sailing when you decide to start a family. More than one in 10 couples experience infertility, according to Planned Parenthood. About a third of the time, the problem is with the man's sperm. When no problems with the woman become immediately apparent, the doctor might order a semen analysis from the man. While providing a sperm sample is not as dreadful as getting blood drawn, it still can be uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing. Doing the job in your own home can make it a bit easier.
A sperm sample is commonly ordered if male infertility is suspected or following a vasectomy reversal to determine if the procedure was successful. Semen analysis provides helpful information, including how much semen is produced during ejaculation. Lab workers count the number of sperm present, note the sperm shape and how well and what percentage of a man's sperm moves forward, states WebMD. Other tests include white blood cell count, pH, fructose level and liquefaction time.
This semen analysis helps your fertility doctor determine whether a reproductive problem is causing infertility and how best to help you and your partner achieve pregnancy.
In the Days Prior
Planning ahead for a few days helps provide the most accurate results. Avoid ejaculation two to five days prior to providing a semen sample, suggests WebMD. This improves the reliability of the testing and gives you a higher sperm count. Stay away from alcohol and nicotine for 10 days prior to collecting your sperm sample.
Other things can affect sperm quality as well, including caffeine, herbal medicines, and prescription medications such as hormones, chemotherapy drugs, cimetidine and sulfasalazine.
Collecting a Sperm Sample
Before you begin, take a shower and ensure your hands are clean. Do not use a condom, lubricant or saliva. Masturbate and ejaculate directly into the semen sample cup that was given to you by your doctor or the one provided to you in your home test kit. Seal the cup with the lid provided and record the date, time and your name on the label if you are taking the sample to your doctor.
Don't be embarrassed if you have trouble providing a semen sample. Masturbating on demand is sometimes stressful and awkward. Feel free to have your partner help you with the process. Just ensure that your partner has clean hands as well. If masturbation is not working for you, use a special silicone condom, without spermicide or lubricants, during sex to collect your sperm sample instead. With this method, simply remove the condom after you ejaculate and tie a knot at the end of it. Then, place it inside of your sample cup and secure the lid.
After ejaculation, deliver your sperm sample to your doctor's office or laboratory within one hour. Sperm only lives a short time outside of the body, so the semen sample must be properly transported and delivered promptly.
If your sperm sample is being used for a home sperm fertility test, allow it to sit upright in the covered collection container for 20 minutes. This gives the semen time to thin out properly. After that time, proceed with the instructions provided with the test, which typically involve mixing some semen with a provided solution before putting drops of the mixture on a testing device.
Transporting a Sperm Sample
To help prevent leaks, place your sperm sample container upright in a plastic bag. Try to keep it close to normal body temperature. If a semen sample gets too cold or too hot, it can affect the results of some fertility tests. Never place the sperm sample in your briefcase or pocket, and don't store it into the refrigerator. Keep it out of direct sunlight, and if it's cold outside, carry the sample container close to your body as your transport it.