What To Expect In A Semen Analysis For IVF?
Conclusions about male fertility are usually drawn after analyzing the semen. The quality of sperm determines the potential of a man to help a woman conceive. There might be some underlying health conditions like an infection, hormonal fluctuations, blockage in the path of sperm, or other causes that lead to an abnormal sperm count, shape, or motility.
However, to go to the roots of why conception wasn’t possible the normal way, the first thing the doctor recommends is getting a semen analysis. If you have opted for IVF, then you will also be asked the same. Let us dive into the details of semen analysis for IVF.
Semen is the viscous, white fluid that is released from the penis of men during ejaculation. Most often semen is confused with sperm. However, both of them are not the same. It is semen that contains sperm along with other proteins and enzymes that are secreted from other glands. A major portion of semen constitutes the fructose-rich secretions from the seminal vesicles.
It also contains certain enzymes, lipids, citric acid, and acid phosphatase secreted from the prostate glands. The semen forms a liquid base to carry the sperm. In addition to that, it provides energy to the sperm and maintains its viability and motility.
The motility of the sperm allows it to swim up the vaginal canal of women and reach the fallopian tubes where they wait to fertilize the egg.
Once ejaculated, the sperm remain active for about 3-5 days inside the female body. If there is a variation in the normal sperm count, the shape of the sperm, or their motility, fertility issues arise in men. To determine the exact cause of that, a semen analysis is conducted as a part of male fertility testing.
If you have not been able to conceive for 12 months despite having unprotected sex, you might be recommended to go for semen analysis for IVF. In that case, your semen is collected. The usual method is by masturbating in a private area in the lab.
If that is somehow not possible, you will be given a condom by the ART lab to use and have intercourse. Do not use ordinary condoms as they have spermicidal agents that will affect the quality and quantity of sperm, thus altering the results of the semen test.
You will be asked to stay away from any kind of sexual activity, 3-5 days before semen collection. This is important to keep the sperm count high. However, abstinence for more than 10 days might hamper the normal sperm count too.
Since sperm dries up quickly outside the body and doesn’t thrive in temperatures that are far outside the range of normal body temperature, it is important to be careful during the test.
To get accurate results, follow the guidelines given to you by your expert. Use the container provided by the ART lab to ejaculate and immediately transfer it to the lab room if you have collected it somewhere outside.
What Does The Test Look Into
Several parameters are focused on in the semen test. Some of the most important ones are:-
In the sperm count test, the semen sample is tested for the number of sperm it contains. Normally, every milliliter of semen must contain more than or equal to 15 million sperm.
Every ejaculate must have at least 39 million sperm. If the average number of sperm in your semen fails to reach this amount, then that will be considered a case of lower sperm count or oligozoospermia.
Sperm have an oval head containing the genetic material that fuses with the ovum during fertilization. To allow it to swim its way up to the vagina, it also has a long tail. Having a normal morphology is also important to ensure fertility.
Therefore, male fertility testing includes the assessment of sperm morphology. Though it is completely normal to have misshapen sperm, at least 4% of them in the semen have to be properly shaped to allow men to get their partners pregnant.
Another aspect that is looked into during the semen analysis is the motility of the sperm. Motile sperm are required to swim up the vaginal canal of the women and fertilize the egg in the fallopian tube. Not all sperms move in the same way.
Some move forward and straight in a motion called progressive. Some others have a non-progressive motion where they either swim backward or in a circular motion. It is required for at least 40% of the sperm to be motile, out of which 32% should have progressive motion. any deviation from this would mean a drop in fertility.
Besides the sperm count test and test for motility and morphology, there are a few other things that are included in the analysis. The volume and consistency of your semen are also considered. On average, a man produces around 1.5-5 ml of viscous semen. The viscosity is assessed by allowing sperm to be released from a pipette.
The pH of the semen is also an important factor as that will not only alter the sperm count but will also influence the vaginal environment post-intercourse. Desired vitality and motility can be maintained in neutral and slightly alkaline pH.
Yet another vital thing is to check for the presence of antibodies in the sperm. Those antibodies are known as anti-sperm antibodies(ASA). If the test results spell out positive for ASA, it can be inferred that your sperm will form aggregates by clumping together and cannot freely move to fertilize the egg.
Post-analysis, you might be recommended a course of treatments to improve the quality of semen if your results do not fall within the normal range assigned for each aspect. In most cases of abnormal sperm and lower sperm count, Intra cytoplasmic sperm injection(ICSI) is done. In this process, sperm is directly injected into an ovum to ensure fertilization.
If you suffer from azoospermia i.e, no sperm in your semen, then you will be suggested to take a series of other tests to find out the cause. However, you still have a chance to have a baby. Your sperm can be used for IVF after being collected through surgical methods from your testes.
This is how a sperm analysis for IVF determines the potency of your semen to fertilize an egg. The results will pave the way for further tests to confirm the underlying cause for the abnormalities and provide means to mitigate the condition.