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How to check the sperm count?

A stitch in time saves time! Before everyone just starts to Google something and find the ways to do it, it’s better to understand what it is and why it is important. Semen analysis, which is also known as “seminogram” evaluates the health and viability of a man’s sperm. It focuses on 3 important characteristics:
  • Number of sperm or sperm count
  • Shape of sperm
  • Movement of sperm or sperm motility
A sperm analysis is important to evaluate male fertility, whether for the couples seeking pregnancy or verifying the results of vasectomy. One of the most important parameters is sperm count. Sperm count or sperm concentration is a measure of the number of sperms per ejaculation or per measured amount of semen. It measures the concentration of sperm in man’s ejaculate. It is different from total sperm count, which is the sperm count multiplied by volume. Simply put,
Total Sperm Count = Sperm count per unit volume * Volume

Why is sperm count important?

Even though it takes only one egg and one sperm for pregnancy, healthier and better the sperm count, higher the chances of pregnancy. It is not just important for conceiving but is also an indicator of overall health. A study in Endocrine Society in 2018 found that a man with lower sperm count is likely to have a higher percentage of body fat (denoted by bigger waistline and higher BMI) and higher blood pressure. Lower sperm count also leads to a higher frequency of metabolic syndrome or higher chances of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke. It is important now to understand the international standards for normal sperm count.

What is a normal sperm count range?

As per WHO in 2010, a normal sperm count range is 15 million to more than 200 million sperm per millilitre of semen. Anything less than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen or 39 million sperm per ejaculate is considered as low sperm count. Lower sperm count is called as oligozoospermia. Vasectomy is considered successful if the sperm count is zero which is called azoospermia.

Few precautionary steps to ensure before semen analysis:

A good sample is needed to provide the most accurate results, as is the case with every test and analysis. Your doctor will consult you on the preparation in order to get a good sample. To get accurate results, one should ensure following things:
  • Avoiding ejaculation 24 to 72 hours before the test. However, ejaculation should not be avoided for longer than a couple of weeks before the analysis as it might lead to inactive sperms in the sample.
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs , and caffeine 2 to 5 days before the test
  • Avoid any herbal medication or discuss it with the doctor once
  • Avoid any hormonal medications
  • Avoid use of lubricants to collect the sample as it affects the natural movement of sperm
The sample should ideally be collected either by masturbation or ejaculation. Masturbation is considered the ideal way to get a clean sample. The sample collected should be protected from all the external factors which can cause inaccuracy in the test.

One should keep in mind the following things:

  • Semen must be kept at the body temperature. It should not be stored at a low temperature or a high temperature. Higher temperature reduces sperm and lower temperature reduces motility. The primary reason for the testicles being attached outside to the body is to keep it cooler than the body temperature.
  • Sample must be tested within 30 to 60 minutes of ejaculation. Keeping the sperms in open for long kills them. Hence the sample must be taken to a testing laboratory or facility within 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Prevent the semen from contacting spermicide. Spermicide has chemicals which immobilize and kill the sperm to prevent it from reaching the egg.
  • Avoid taking the test if you are ill or stressed. Stress and illness are known to reduce sperm count as well. No wonder, everyone asks us to be happy and jolly.
  • Lab technician should handle the sperms with extra precaution. Any minor contamination can provide wrong test results.
The ideal and preferred way is to consult a doctor and visit a laboratory or testing facility for most accurate results. Home tests are also available, but they provide the results only for sperm count. Chips for home use are emerging which give an accurate estimation of sperm count within 10 minutes. Such chips might measure the sperm concentration against a control liquid filled with polystyrene beads. However, the home results are not always accurate as it doesn’t consider all the possible causes of male infertility.

What do the results say?

These 2 words make everyone nervous right from the childhood. The lab technicians observe the sample closely under the microscope which provides them information about sperm count, motility, morphology, volume, chemical makeup, fructose level. The test results are generally available within 24 hours to 1 week depending upon the laboratory. The doctor considers multiple factors while reviewing the results. Anything between 15 million to 200 million sperms per millilitre of semen is considered the normal range. If the test results are abnormal, it could be an indication of the following things:
  • Infertility
  • Infection
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Disease such as diabetes
  • Genetic defects
  • Radiation exposure
The doctor can request for another test to review the sample to eliminate the chances of a sample contamination incident or a bad sample. If the results still point towards abnormality a few additional tests might be needed, which are:
  • Genetic tests
  • Hormone testing
  • Urinalysis after ejaculation: It is the analysis of urine sample collected after ejaculation
  • Taking a tissue sample from the testicles
  • Anti-sperm immune cells testing
A sperm count test or semen analysis requires a careful collection of samples and analysis of multiple samples to reach to a conclusion. The analysis provides a variety of information which determine the factors that affect man’s fertility. The doctor can refer to a fertility specialist in case of abnormal results. Do not hesitate from such tests as it will take you and your partner out from ignorance and help you figure out the exact problem and treatment. Taking complete care of our body and health issues is a must, one must not risk it. Remember without your health you have nothing really going your way! Thank you.

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