Women tend to be the focus of infertility issues and men tend to be an afterthought. However, 30-50% of the couples who have trouble conceiving are affected by male factors and almost all the cases are sperm related issues. The first step when dealing with a sperm issue is to have a semen analysis done.
A semen analysis is basically testing the sperm quality of your semen. Quality means that the sperm is normal in appearance, there is an adequate number of sperm in the seminal fluid and they are able to swim. The sperm’s DNA should be normal as well.
Infertile couples (those who have been trying to conceive for a year) obviously benefit from semen analysis. Of course, if you would just like to find out if your sperm are healthy, you can make an appointment for the test as well.
When you get your appointment for your semen analysis you will be asked to abstain from ejaculation for 3 days, but no more than 5 days. The semen sample is ideal for a semen analysis between these dates.
You will be asked to collect your semen in a sterile container. Masturbation or self-stimulation will be required to produce the sample.
No lubricants or any foreign substance should be used during the process since these can damage the sperm. Saliva is also not recommended.
You will be given the option to produce your sample at the clinic/collection site or at your home. However, the sample must be examined within 1 hour.
The analysis involves looking at the following criteria:
We look at how acidic or alkali the semen is. Semen should be slightly alkaline since the vaginal environment is acidic in nature. This is a defense mechanism that helps protect the vagina from bad bacteria. The semen’s slight alkalinity allows the sperm to survive for a longer period in the vaginal canal. Acidic semen prevents fertilization of destroys the sperm.
pH issues may be caused by tubal blockages, those that carry parts of the semen.
The greater the volume, the greater the chance that semen will flood the female reproductive tract. Semen consists of fluids from the seminal vesicles, testes, bulbourethral, and prostate glands. Low semen volume may be caused by the blockage or absence of the seminal vesicle, retrograde ejaculation, obstruction of the vas deferens, stress, and hormonal imbalance. On the other hand, abnormally high volume may be triggered by inflammation of the reproductive glands.
3. Sperm Concentration
The higher the sperm concentration, the more likely fertilization will take place. A low sperm count can be a sign of a number of problems such as infection, varicocele, diabetes, inflammatory disease, hormonal imbalance, duct problems, and toxic substance exposure. An abnormally low sperm count can also be caused by a high fever due to illness, certain medications, and heat exposure to the scrotum.
Excess alcohol, smoking, and obesity have all been linked to low sperm count. No sperm (azoospermia) may be caused by a testicular issue, a duct problem, or a hormonal imbalance.
4. Leukocyte (White blood cell) Count
It has been observed that WBC numbers are higher in patients who struggle with fertility issues than among fertile males.
WBC in semen is also linked to imparted sperm motility and lower sperm numbers. It seems that WBC impairs sperm function. A significant increase in WBC may be a sign that you have an infection of the male reproductive tract.
Sperm viability refers to the live sperm percentage in your semen sample. It is important to ascertain if sperm motility is low so we can distinguish between live non-motile sperm and dead sperm. The same factors that can lead to a low sperm count can cause reduced viability.
6. Sperm Motility
The sperm must be able to propel itself to the egg. There are 3 main types of motility:
a. Progressive motility
This refers to forward movement either in a circle or a line. This is the kind of motility that you want.
b. Non- Progressive motility
This describes sperm that do not swim forward or moves in a tight circular formation.
This refers to sperm that does not move at all.
This refers to the shape of the sperm cells. The semen analysis gives a percentage approximation of normally shaped sperm.
The head, midsection, and tail are assessed, measurements are taken of each segment and the proportion between each.
Poor sperm morphology may be triggered by the same causative factors that can result in low sperm counts.
Firstly, you should try to mitigate the factors that may result in infertility.
Get tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
You should get yourself tested for sexually transmitted diseases. If you are positive for any STDs, seek treatment as soon as possible. Infections like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia have both been known to cause scarring of the reproductive tract and infertility in general.
Boost your sex hormone levels.
You can increase the natural levels of sex hormones in your body by losing weight, building muscle mass, exercise, reducing your stress, and consequently your cortisol levels. A good night’s sleep can also have a positive effect on your hormones.
Additionally, you can make some lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and consume less alcohol. These will also help improve sperm quality. You can also look into superfoods with high antioxidant levels. Foods that contain zinc and selenium like beans, oysters, seeds, nuts, and green leafy vegetables all help your body produce quality semen. Conversely, reducing your consumption of processed foods is also highly recommended. Also, foods that are high in phytoestrogens like soya bean should also be consumed sparingly. Phytoestrogens mimic the female hormone estrogen in the body.
Some medications are notorious for negatively impacting your sperm count e.g. chemotherapy, testosterone supplementation/replacement, long-term steroid use, prostate medications like 5ARIs and alpha-blockers, and rheumatic drugs. If you are on any of these medications, your sperm may be affected, and you should speak to your doctor.
If you have been exposed to high temperatures or had a high fever recently, it may take many weeks for your sperm count to normalize. You should avoid tight-fitting pants and underwear. Also, avoid sitting on a hot surface. Always wear the right PPE to protect yourself from toxic chemicals in your workplace, for example.
We encourage you to adopt a healthy lifestyle to boost your fertility. Reach out to us should you have any concerns!