Most men would agree that their fertility isn’t an everyday curiosity. It’s a topic that can make us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Besides, if we aren’t looking to have children right now, then why even consider looking at your fertility in the first place? My name is Kyle Tzanetis, an andrologist at RMA of Connecticut; and I am here to explain why your fertility should be important to you.
What do you look for during a semen analysis?
As the team lead in the andrology lab, I have spent many years understanding what it takes to have a baby. We are 50% of the equation after all, and our role is crucial in the family building process. I think you’d be fascinated to learn the factors that are examined in a typical semen analysis; all of which are specific to sperm and their journey to fertilize an egg. This is why a semen analysis is so important. We need to look at specific variables to understand the larger picture.
Concentration? Motility? Morphology? Oh My.
A semen analysis contains many important tests. Rather than discussing all of them, let me just touch upon the main ones. These include concentration, motility, and morphology. Just because you consider yourself a healthy male doesn’t necessarily mean your reproductive health is on the same page. Infertility is a disease and it does not discriminate – it affects many. Understanding how much sperm is in your sample (also known as your concentration) is the first step in understanding your fertility. You may be surprised to know that the typical male contains more than 20 million sperm in each milliliter of ejaculate. Now, I know what you are thinking… 20 – 200 million sperm per milliliter sounds like a lot! Nevertheless, even with that many sperm, if none of them are moving then chances are you are going to have difficulty in the future.
This is where motility comes into play. When I am looking at a sample, I am also looking at the percentage of moving sperm. 40% or greater means you are in good shape. We want our sperm to be active swimmers; moving well to fertilize that egg. This leads us to my next and final point, morphology- or the shape of our sperm. Morphology is important for several reasons; and no, abnormally shaped sperm does not mean you will have an abnormal baby. It helps us look at important parts of the sperm like the acrosome. It can also help us determine which avenue of IVF we will use. If less than 4% of your sperm is of a normal morphology, you may want to ask your physician what you can do during your IVF journey for a higher chance of success.
What is the next step after a semen analysis?
These three factors are just the beginning of the equation, and can’t be known without a semen analysis. I know taking that first step can be awkward or intimidating- but having a greater understanding of where you stand will help create a road map for your future. During this month of June, I encourage you to reach out and take advantage of the resources around you. Know that you have support and you are definitely not alone. Men’s Health Month provides an opportunity to learn something new and encourage a better understanding and appreciation for a topic that isn’t usually thought about.