One in seven couples all over the world are faced with the problem of inability to produce a child, otherwise known as infertility. The problem could be with the male, or the female, or both. Let us look into male infertility in greater detail, since more than a third of all infertility cases involve problems from the male. Most of the cases of male fertility are due to semen problems. Before we understand these problems, we need to first understand that infertility is not equivalent to an abnormal semen report, and irregularities in semen could happen even for normally fertile men.
The basic tests to understand semen problems are – volume and consistency of the semen discharged, sperm count in a standard volume of semen, active (or swimming) sperms as a percentage, how the sperms look (their shape), and the quality of the movement or motion of sperms.
Here are some of the common problems that could be detected in anabnormal semen analysis –
- Sometimes the semen discharge flows back partially or completely into the bladder from where it was ejaculated.
- There could be blockages in the ejaculatory duct, leading to unsatisfactory volume of ejaculation.
- The male hormone (testosterone) could be in levels lower than normal.
- Low semen volume could lead to difficulty in transporting sperm satisfactorily into the vaginal tract.
- If the consistency of seminal discharge is not correct, it might lead to problems in proper discharge. Low to moderate viscosity of the semen is ideal.
- Low sperm count would lead to lower chances of successful fertilization.
- Sperm should ideally move fast and travel more or less in a straight line. If this is not happening, then the sperm might be unable to pierce the cervical mucus and fertilize the egg.
- Irregularities in the shape and size of the sperm could also affect its ability to fertilize.
Let us now look at what results one could expect from a normal sperm analysis –
- Shape : More than half of the sperms in a particular seminal discharge should follow the ideal morphology of a sperm. Ideal morphology talks about the shape and size of the head, tail and middle section.
- Volume : There should be at least 2 milliliters of semen in a single discharge.
- Count : There should be a minimum of 20 million sperms, and up to 200 million sperms in a standard discharge.
- Alkalinity : The semen should not have a pH level of less than 7.2, and what this means is that normal semen should not be acidic, since any score below 7 on pH scale refers to an acidic substance.
- Color : Normally semen is whitish in color and opalescent in texture. A reddish or brownish tinge is not normal, and neither is yellow. The white could at best be replaced by a grayish color to still be considered normal.
- Stability : Semen usually liquefies after at least 15 to 30 minutes after discharge, by turning into a water like appearance and consistency.