Semen analysis

Last updated: August 6, 2021

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Semen analysis is an important test in the evaluation of male infertility and is also used to confirm sterility after a vasectomy. A semen sample is examined for sperm concentration, morphology, motility, and semen biochemistry (e.g., pH level). Test results can include a number of pathologies, such as low sperm count (oligospermia) or complete lack of sperm in the ejaculate (azoospermia). However, semen analysis is not a definitive test for infertility and low sperm count does not necessarily rule out the ability to father children.

Indications for semen analysistoggle arrow icon

Sample collectiontoggle arrow icon

  • The man is asked to abstain from sex/masturbation for 2–7 days before a semen sample is collected to maximize the quantity of the ejaculate and concentration of the sperm .
  • Semen is collected after masturbation into a sterile container .
  • Semen analysis should be performed within an hour of sample collection.
  • Semen analysis should be repeated in 12-week intervals (minimum of 2 separate samples) .


Semen analysistoggle arrow icon

Semen analysis

Characteristics Normal findings
Volume 1.5 - 5 mL
Color Whitish, opalescent
Liquefaction Complete within 30 minutes

Basic 7.2–8.0

Total number of sperm per ejaculate > 39 million per ejaculate
Sperm concentration per mL > 15 million per mL
Vitality (percentage of live sperm) > 58% live sperm
Morphology (percentage of normal forms) > 4% sperm are morphologically normal.
Total motility (progressive and non-progressive sperm) > 40%
Progressive motility > 32%
Fructose in seminal plasma > 13 μmol/L
Leukocytes per mL of semen < 1 million

Pathological findings

Conditions Characteristics
Aspermia No ejaculate
Hypospermia Low ejaculate volume (< 1.5 mL)
Azoospermia No spermatozoa in the ejaculate
Cryptozoospermia < 1 million spermatozoa/mL of ejaculate
Oligospermia < 15 million spermatozoa/mL of ejaculate
Asthenozoospermia < 32% of spermatozoa show progressive motility (category PR)
Teratozoospermia Increased amorphous spermatozoa
Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OAT syndrome) Low concentration, insufficient motility, and increased amorphous spermatozoa


Specialized semen teststoggle arrow icon

Specialized semen tests are not routinely performed but can be necessary if semen analysis alone does not explain the cause of infertility.

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Faraj K. Male Infertility. In: Kim ED, Male Infertility. New York, NY: WebMD. Updated: June 7, 2016. Accessed: May 5, 2017.
  2. Anawalt BD, Page ST. Approach to the Male with Infertility. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. Last updated: October 31, 2017. Accessed: December 27, 2017.
  3. Cooper TG, Noonan E, von Eckardstein S, et al. World Health Organization reference values for human semen characteristics. Hum Reprod Update. 2010; 16 (3): p.231-245.doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmp048 . | Open in Read by QxMD

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 Evidence-based content, created and peer-reviewed by physicians. Read the disclaimer