Deciphering Your Semen Analysis Report: Guide to Understanding the Numbers

Semen analysis is one of the important tests that acts as an indicator of male fertility.Many men experience a lot of anxiety and stress over the test and later, over the results. However, it’s not as daunting as it seems. Here is a quick guide to help you decipher the terms generally mentioned in the semen analysis report and what the healthy levels for each should be.

Semen analysis, also known as a sperm count test, analyzes the health and viability of a man’s sperm. Semen is the fluid containing sperm (plus other sugar and protein substances) that are released during ejaculation. It is usually done to help evaluate male fertility, whether for those seeking pregnancy or verifying the success of vasectomy.

Preparing for a semen analysis

You’ll need to provide your doctor with a semen sample for a semen analysis. Normally, you can masturbate and ejaculate into a collection cup in a private room at the lab or alternately use a special condom to collect semen during intercourse. Sample collected at home should be maintained at room temperature and must reach the lab within 1 hour of leaving the body.

Getting a good sample

Since sperm counts can vary on a daily basis your doctor will probably want to test more than one sample. Generally, 2 to 3 samples can be tested over a period of three months. Each test should be conducted at least 7 days apart. Taking an average of the sperm samples helps to arrive at the most conclusive and accurate result.

Understanding 7 important parameters of semen analysis report

ParametersMeasurement unitNormal range
1.Semen volumeml1.5 – 5 mL, or between ¼ – 1 teaspoon
2.Total sperm countMillion/ml20 million or more
3.Sperm concentrationMillion/ml15 million or more
4.Total motilitypercent40% or more
5.Progressive motilitypercent32% or more
6.Vitalitypercent58% or more
7.Sperm morphology

(% of normal-appearing sperm)

percent4% or more

Semen volume

On an average, a man produces 1.5 – 5 ml or between ¼ – 1 teaspoon volume of semen on ejaculation. If your sample is less than that, it could mean that your seminal vesicles aren’t making enough fluid or are blocked. You could also have a problem with your prostate.

Total sperm count

Sperm count also known as sperm density can fluctuate on a daily basis and is also affected by abstinence of sexual intercourse. The sperm count in a normal semen analysis should be between 20 million to over 200 million. If this number is low, conceiving can be more difficult.

Sperm concentration

A normal sperm count is between 15 million and 200 million sperm per ml of semen. Lower numbers may indicate that sperm is being blocked from coming out, or that the testicles are not producing sperm the way they should.

Total motility & progressive motility

Motility is how well the sperm swims to get through the eggs, traveling through the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes. Motility can be further divided into total motility (any kind of movement) and progressive motility (forward movement). Healthy sperms must have a fast, forward movement. Over 40% sperm motility provides a better chance of pregnancy. A lower number may indicate that there is toxin exposure such as smoking, alcohol, chemicals from a job or hobby and caffeine. Low motility can also indicate hormonal problems or a varicocele (varicose veins in the scrotum).

A more specified measure is motility grade, where the motility of sperm is divided into four different grades:

  • Grade a: Sperm with progressive motility. These are the strongest and swim fast in a straight line. Sometimes it is also denoted motility IV.
  • Grade b: (non-linear motility): These also move forward but tend to travel in a curved or crooked motion. Sometimes also denoted motility III.
  • Grade c: These have non-progressive motility because they do not move forward despite the fact that they move their tails. Sometimes also denoted motility II.
  • Grade d: These are immotile and fail to move at all. Sometimes also denoted motility I.

Sperm vitality or viability

Sperm viability refers to the percentage of live sperm in the semen sample. This is especially important to measure if sperm motility is low, so differentiate between live non-motile sperm and dead sperm. At least 58 percent of the sperm cells should be viable to be considered normal.

Sperm morphology

Sperm morphology refers to the shape and size (appearance) of the sperms. If it is misshaped for any reason, it may indicate it was exposed to toxins or infection. Normal semen will have at least 4% normally shaped sperm.

In sum…

The results of the semen analysis report typically serve as a treatment guide for you and your partner. Be sure to review it with your doctor to determine if there is a problem and what can be done to treat it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Understanding a diagnosis is important to success. Happy trying!


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