Sperm Testing, Semen Analysis & Male Infertility
Male Factor Infertility Testing, Diagnosis and Analysis in California
Sperm testing is often the first type of screening a male fertility doctor will perform. The two most common male factor infertility tests are the semen analysis, which evaluates low sperm count among other characteristics, and SCSA testing, which measures the health of the sperm's DNA. In cases of male factor infertility, over 90% of the time the condition is caused by poor sperm quality or other sperm disorders. Due to this, sperm testing and semen analyses are crucial to a diagnosis.
The tests are painless and only take a few minutes, although it will usually take a week or two to receive results from the laboratory. While a great result from a sperm test is good news, it unfortunately is not proof of fertility. Marginal or poor test results combined with the analysis of other information will indicate to Dr. Bastuba what male fertility treatment options are best. Further testing may be necessary to determine the condition of the sperm. Take our online male fertility test to test your level of fertility.
Male Factor Infertility Testing
A semen analysis is typically the first test prescribed to evaluate male factor infertility. Semen analysis can reveal potential causes of male infertility such as low sperm count and production, irregularly shaped sperm, discover a lack of sperm in the ejaculate, and much more.
Semen Analysis Procedure
A semen analysis is a very simple and painless test performed in the laboratory. A semen sample is required which can be created by masturbating into a sterile cup, or by collecting semen using a special condom during intercourse. Ideally the semen should be tested within an hour after collection. The test will analyze the volume, liquefaction time, sperm count, sperm shape, sperm motility, pH balance of the sperm, white blood cell count and the energy or fructose levels of the sperm.
Semen Analysis Preparation
It is important that you abstain from sexual activity for two to five days before collecting a semen sample, since this can affect your test results.
Semen Analysis Results
Semen analysis evaluates several factors that can affect fertility including:
- Sperm Viability: The percentage of sperm that is viable in the semen sample.
- Sperm Count: The total number / concentration of sperm per milliliter of semen.
- Sperm Motility: How the sperm swim.
- Sperm Appearance: The shape, size and color of sperm.
A healthy semen sample usually has a sperm concentration of approximately 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A healthy semen sample should also reveal high sperm viability, motility and have abnormal shape, which all indicates the sperm can effectively fertilize an egg.
Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay, or SCSA® , measures the level of DNA fragmentation in the sperm. High-levels of DNA fragmentation affect male fertility by lowering the probability of a successful pregnancy and increasing the likelihood of miscarriages. As with semen analysis, you need to provide a semen sample for the SCSA® test. Once the semen sample is received, the SCSA® test is performed in the laboratory with an instrument called flow cytometer. Flow cytometer counts for individual sperm cells that have been dyed with fluorescent markers. Based on the fluorescent profile, your doctor can identify sperm cells with low levels of fragmented DNA from those with moderate to high levels fragmented DNA.
SCSA® Test Results
What are DFI levels?
A healthy SCSA® test result is measured by the DNA fragmentation index, or DFI, which indicates the level of DNA fragmentation of your sperm. Ideally your SCSA® test result should indicate a DFI lower than 15 percent for optimal fertility. DFI test levels higher than 30 percent typically indicate you have significantly reduced fertility potential.
What lifestyle factors affect DFI levels?
Your lifestyle habits can have a major effect on your DFI test results. Smoking, drug usage, age, exposure to high heat, prolonged exposure to chemicals and radiation, some prescriptions medications, cancer, and some illnesses can promote DNA fragmentation and increase DFI. Regular exercise and eating a healthy diet that is high in antioxidants may help improve your sperm health and lower DFI levels.
What if my DFI is higher than 30%?
High DFI test results can sometimes be lowered naturally by changing your lifestyle habits. This includes quitting smoking, eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding hot tubs and other situations that increase the temperature in the scrotum. In addition, antibiotic therapy for treating possible infections and discontinuation of medications that may affect sperm health can lower DFI and result in a higher fertility potential. If lifestyle changes do not lower your DFI test results, you may need to consider using donor sperm or IVF with ICSI.
SCSA® vs. Semen Analysis
How is SCSA® testing different than semen analysis?
Where semen analysis looks at the sperm from the “outside”, the SCSA® test looks at the sperm from the “inside,” offering many advantages over traditional microscopic semen analysis. Sperm that appears normal in semen analysis (high motility, normal morphology, and high viability) may have high levels of DNA fragmentation.
Should I get a semen analysis, SCSA test, or both?
Both semen analysis and SCSA provide important information about the health of your sperm, and these tests complement each other. A semen analysis focuses on outward characteristics of sperm, such as viability, motility and morphology, while the SCSA® test evaluates the DNA characteristics of the sperm. Even if your semen analysis is healthy, the SCSA® test can reveal considerable DNA damage, and vice versa. Taking both tests provides you with the best overview of your fertility. If you are considering in vitro fertilization (IVF), you might want to get a SCSA® test before spending thousands of dollars on the IVF procedure. Research shows that less than 1 percent of IVF procedures lead to pregnancy when the DNA fragmentation level (DFI) of the sperm used was greater than 30 percent.