Urology Austin

Indicators of an abnormal semen analysis.

abnormal semen analysis

There are some basic parameters which are tested in a standard semen analysis. These include: sperm concentration, motility (sperm mobility), morphology (sperm shape), and the volume of ejaculate. The key semen analysis parameter shown below strongly influences the likelihood of a pregnancy by natural means (intercourse) and by intrauterine insemination (IUI). All of this testing is done to ensure there is not an abnormal semen analysis, and that pregnancy can be achieved.

Abnormal semen analysis testing

When calculating the key parameter, the following formula is used:


*The morphology parameter is not included in this calculation because it does not have independent predictive value for a natural (spontaneous) pregnancy nor IUI. Sperm morphology is more valuable at the IVF stage.

Total Motile Sperm Count

If total motile sperm count in a given semen specimen is less than 80 million, then the likelihood of a natural pregnancy is diminished. If you are undergoing IUI, your odds of achieving of pregnancy are still related to the total motile sperm count. Learn more about how to to increase your total motile sperm count.

Sperm Morphology

Although sperm morphology (shape) is evaluated in a standard semen analysis test, its value as a predictor of pregnancy by intercourse and IUI is limited. It does, however, have value in predicting success with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). When the semen morphology is less than 12% using strict criteria, it has a negative predictive value for pregnancy rates with IVF.

White blood cells (WBCs) in abnormally high numbers, usually greater than 1 million per cc, is a sign of inflammation in the semen. It is important that WBC measurements stain for and document the concentration of WBCs because they can otherwise be confused for immature sperm. Studies suggest that WBCs in the semen are associated with infertility because of the potential negative impact on sperm function.

pH Testing
The pH testing of the semen is not always necessary. Occasionally, it is helpful to determine if low ejaculate volumes are related to blockage of the ejaculatory ducts. A low semen pH (i.e., acidic semen) is a sign of blocked ejaculatory ducts.

If you have concerns about your fertility and would like to discuss a semen analysis with one of our urologists, contact the Urology Austin office nearest you to schedule an appointment.

Related links

Urology Care Foundation – Male Infertility

American Pregnancy Association – Male Infertility