How to Prepare for a Semen Analysis

You may do it all the time, but not for academic reasons. Now they’re asking you to provide a semen sample to see how it measures up. If you feel like you’re being singled out, don’t. Truth is, there’s a long history of looking at semen under a microscope. The Dutch lens maker van Leeuwenhoekfirst peered at sperm through a microscope over 300 years ago; he called them “animalcules” or “tiny animals.” So it may be comforting to know that you’re not the first to be asked to do this.

Sperm Tarot Reading

Sure, it may seem odd, but checking your semen is an important step in evaluating why you’re not able to conceive. For example, there’s a 5% chance that no sperm will be found – and that, my friend, changes things. So, here’s a primer on how to collect a semen sample.

Loving Plastic Cups

Let’s begin with some biology. Realize that ejaculation is a reflex, like a sneeze, and needs triggering to get the sample you want. This can be difficult for many men to do “by appointment” instead of recreationally. Face it, it’s entirely unromantic. In the words of friend and author Greg Wolfe, it’s essentially “making love to a plastic cup.”

But there’s more. Not only must ejaculation happen on schedule, but the semen must all be collected for examination. This is an entirely new experience for many, if not all, men. It often leads to what I call the “first-sample syndrome” in which half the semen is in the cup and the other half ends up…somewhere else. Long story short, your semen analysis may be for the first time you have to actually think about what you’re doing when you ejaculate.

It’s also important to understand that the longer you abstain from ejaculation before the “clinical” sample is offered, the older the sperm are. Sure, you may have more seminal fluid and more sperm in the fluid, but sperm motility or movement decreases dramatically. The ideal abstinence period before providing a semen sample to the lab is 2-3 days. This is the optimal for sperm count and motility. Oh, and keep the cup at body temperature by putting it in your shirt pocket, and try to drop it off within an hour or so of procurement, as sperm motility falls while in the cup.

Be aware that your semen quality is more likely to reflect lifestyle choices over the past 2-3 months than the past 2-3 days. For example, stopping alcohol, weed or tobacco use several days before your semen analysis is unlikely to give you a better sample if you’ve been sousing liberally for several months.

Finally, try not to use any lubrication when you collect the sample. Notoriously toxic to sperm are saliva, hand lotions, soaps, hospital-based lubricants (Surgilube, KY Jelly), water, soda, coffee or tea. Typically, vegetable oils and mineral oils are safe. In this case, staying “high and dry” is a good thing.

Bottom line is that there are lots of things that influence semen quality. So put your best foot forward take great care of yourself and follow these simple directions.

This article first appeared on Dr. Turek’s blog.

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Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor

View posts by Dr. Paul Turek, Medical Contributor
Dr. Paul Turek is an internationally known thought leader in men’s reproductive and sexual health care and research. A fellowship trained, board-certified physician by the American Board of Urology (ABU), he has received numerous honors and awards for his work and is an active member in professional associations worldwide. His recent lectures, publications and book titles can be found in his curriculum vitae.

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