Male Fertility

What is a Semen Analysis?

Since infertility affects women and men at an equal rate, it’s important for doctors to evaluate the fertility of men as well as women. One test doctors commonly use to evaluate a man’s fertility is the semen analysis.


During a semen analysis, a man ejaculates into a cup. The semen sample is then examined by lab technicians for several parameters, including: sperm concentration, motility, morphology, and semen volume.


What this tells us

Lower reference limit

Sperm concentration

This is a measure of how many sperm are present per milliliter of semen produced.

15 million/milliliter


This is an evaluation of how well the sperm are moving.

40% motile


This is a measure of how many sperm have a normal shape.

4% normal

Semen volume

This is a measure of how much semen is produced.  

1.5 milliliters

 Based on 2010 WHO Standards (5th Edition)


Limitations of a Semen Analysis

Although the semen analysis can be a useful first test for evaluating a man’s semen parameters, it doesn’t provide an accurate read of his fertility. In other words, having a normal semen analysis does not necessarily mean a man is fertile. He can have a normal semen analysis but still have problems with his fertility. This is because there are other fertility problems a man may be having that cannot be detected in a standard semen analysis. This means further, more advanced, testing may be required even if semen analysis results come back normal.

As scientists continue to learn more about infertility, they have developed more advanced tests that look at the level of the sperm DNA. By looking at factors deep within the sperm, we are able to get a better understanding of problems associated with infertility. Having a deeper understanding of these factors can help you and your doctor decide on the best infertility treatment.

Be sure to ask your doctor about innovations in male infertility testing. Having better information upfront, could help you save time and money on your path to pregnancy.

Chris Bentley

Partner, Altora Health
Chris is a male health and fertility advocate with experience working with multiple innovative fertility companies. He is passionate about understanding his own health, and shares his explorations with you here.