Semen Analysis

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Arranging semen analysis ICE requesting

GP surgeries that use ICE requesting can request Semen Analysis on the ICE system.

For surgeries that already have Semen Analysis packs : Request sample on ICE as a ‘collect later’ sample and attach a label onto the pot and form in the pack. The information leaflet in the semen analysis packs tells the patient when and how to produce the sample. These samples must be delivered by the patient or their representative directly to the Andrology laboratory within an hour of being produced.

For surgeries that wish the patient to pass a semen sample in one of our private rooms (or if surgery has no packs) : Request ‘I want to collect sample later’ and print out a postponed summary. This summary should be emailed to andrology.lab@mft.nhs.uk and we will then send the patient an appointment.

If you have any questions, please email andrology.lab@mft.nhs.uk.

Arranging semen analysis without an ICE request

For surgeries that wish the patient to pass a semen sample in one of our private rooms (or if surgery has no packs) : Email a request to andrology.lab@mft.nhs.uk with the patient name, date of birth, full postal address, referring GP, referring GP practice and NHS number.

An appointment will then be sent to the patient by post.

Alternatively the patient/partner may bring the completed request form directly to Andrology reception to make an appointment. Andrology reception is open 8.30 am – 4.00 pm weekdays.

Please note that appointments cannot be given to patients over the telephone without a request card having been received in Andrology.

Semen analysis specimens brought from home

Patients must be able to deliver their semen sample to Andrology within an hour of it being produced at home. Where patients wish to pass specimens at home and this is acceptable to the clinician, then a completed request card together with a container and instructions (available in packs from Andrology) can be given to the patient. The sample should be kept at body temperature whilst being transported to the laboratory, for example by carrying it in an inside pocket. Excessive cold or heat can damage the sperm.

The patient must bring the specimen directly to Andrology reception in the Department of Reproductive Medicine, Old Saint Mary’s Hospital on Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9WL (if using Sat Nav enter post code M13 0JH),  on weekdays between the hours of 8.30 am – 3.00 pm, within 1 hour of producing the specimen.

In all cases please make a note on the semen analysis request card if the result is required by a particular date. In this case if the patient cancels and reschedules the appointment then clinicians will be informed.

Retrograde semen analysis

Retrograde ejaculation is a condition where semen is ejaculated backwards into the bladder. Some patients may be able to produce semen if masturbation takes place whilst the bladder is full. The urine is examined for the presence of spermatozoa, if there are no spermatozoa in the semen sample or if no semen is produced.

Sample acceptance policy

It is desirable that samples are labelled with four unique identifiers but mandatory that samples are labelled with at least three unique identifiers which are as follows :

  • Surname
  • Forename
  • Date of birth
  • Hospital number
  • NHS number

The request form data MUST match the above information on the sample. Where the sample is repeatable/ reproducible, no analysis will be performed and the sample will be discarded. A repeat sample will be requested. Andrology will accept no responsibility for analysed samples which initially failed to meet the acceptance criteria and will issue a disclaimer on such reports.

A lack of patient or sample information may result in the laboratory not conducting the analysis/ examination. Examples could include :

  • No dates and times of sampling
  • Location for report delivery not given

Request forms SHOULD also contain :

  • The patient’s location/ destination for the report (or a location code)
  • Tests required
  • Name of Consultant or GP
  • Name of the requester and contact number (bleep or extension)
  • Date and time of sample collection
  • Type of sample
  • All relevant clinical information
  • Patient address for GP requests

Specimen containers

Some plastics are toxic to sperm and can affect sperm motility. Andrology provide specimen containers that have passed toxicity testing and are suitable for semen specimens.

Reference ranges

Reports show reference values from the WHO guidelines 2010. Motility is reported as 3 categories instead of 4 and a chart showing 95th percentiles will be on the back of the reports. Lower reference limits (5th centiles and their 95% confidence intervals) for semen characteristics :

Parameter Lower reference limit
Semen volume (ml) 1.5 (1.4-1.7)
Total sperm number (106 per ejaculate) 39 (33-46)
Sperm concentration (106 per ml) 15 (12-16)
Progressive motility (PR, %) 32 (31-34)
Sperm morphology (normal forms, %) 4 (3.0-4.0)
Vitality (live spermatozoa, %) 58 (55-63)
pH ≥ 7.2

For the distribution of values for semen parameters from men whose partners became pregnant within 12 months of discontinuing contraceptive use click here.

Measurement uncertainty values for semen analysis

Every measurement is subject to some uncertainty. Measurement uncertainty can come from the measuring instrument, from the item being measured, from the environment, from the operator and from other sources. Measurement uncertainties can be estimated using statistical analysis of a set of measurements. The use of good practice such as traceable calibration, careful calculation, good record keeping, and checking can reduce measurement uncertainties.

In order to provide a measure of confidence in results produced by a laboratory, it is necessary to identify all factors which may contribute to variation of measurement in a process and assess the potential to influence uncertainty. Once identified these factors must be reduced or controlled to an acceptable level and a value for the range of acceptable uncertainty assigned where possible.

Andrology has determined the measurement uncertainty values for semen analysis. They are reviewed regularly and reassessed whenever a significant change in the procedure occurs, e.g. new equipment or modification of the assay.
These uncertainty measurement values are available upon request.

Turnaround times

Semen analysis (concentration, motility and morphology) 

5 working days from receipt of specimen.

Information for patients

There is a patient information leaflet : Infertility Semen Analysis which you can find here or in the patient leaflets section of our website.

A semen analysis is usually advised if a couple are having difficulty conceiving (becoming pregnant). Primary infertility is an extremely common problem, affecting more than one in seven couples attempting their first pregnancy. Among those experiencing difficulty with conception, a male fertility problem is considered important in around 40 per cent of couples.

The sample will be analysed according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for volume, pH, concentration, motility, viability and morphology. Results are sent to the referring doctor within 5 working days of the semen analysis.

Requirements for patients bringing semen samples from home

Patients that live within an hour of travel from the Andrology Department, sexual abstinence should be between 2 – 7 days (3 or 4 days is best).

The semen sample must be obtained by masturbation (manual stimulation) and should be collected directly into the specimen container provided by Andrology.

Lubricants must not be used to produce the sample.

The whole specimen must be collected.

The specimen should then be placed in the provided bio hazard bag.

The specimen should be brought directly to Andrology by the patient within an hour of it being passed.

The specimen container must be adequately labelled with the patient’s full name and date of birth/ hospital number and the date and time the specimen was collected.

The information on the specimen container must correspond with the data given on the request card

Ensure that patient name, date of birth, referring consultant/ GP, referring department/ GP practice and hospital number/ NHS number are recorded on the request card.

Specimen transportation

Semen samples should be brought directly to Andrology by the patient.

Instructions can be found in the patient information leaflet for infertility semen analysis. Ensure that the specimen container supplied by Andrology has the top screwed on tightly to prevent the specimen from leaking and place the container into the biohazard bag provided. During transportation the sample should be kept between 20 and 37 degrees centigrade.

Avoid extremes of temperature.

Semen analysis samples must be brought directly to Andrology within one hour of production.

The patient must bring the specimen directly to the Andrology reception on the first floor of the Department of Reproductive Medicine in the Old Saint Mary’s building on Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL. (If using Sat Nav enter the postcode M13 0JH).

Factors that may affect semen analysis results

Some plastics are toxic to sperm so specimen containers must be obtained from Andrology as these have been tested for toxicity.

Extremes of temperature can damage sperm so the sample should be kept at body temperature whilst being transported to the laboratory, for example by carrying it in an inside pocket.

A condom and/or artificial lubrication must not be used for semen collection, as it will kill the sperm.

Motility of sperm can decline over time so it is important that the semen sample is examined within an hour of it being produced.

The sperm are in the first part of the ejaculate so the whole of the specimen should be collected.

The number of days of sexual abstinence can affect the quality of sperm.

Abstinence should be between 2 – 7 days (3 or 4 days is best) for semen analysis.

Viscous specimens or specimens where there is sperm agglutination can affect semen analysis results.