Sperm analysis results can be influenced by collection method, timing, and processing before review in a lab. A doctor usually requests this test as part of a diagnostic workup for suspected infertility. If the results suggest a problem is present, the doctor may recommend repeating the test to verify. Repeat tests with the same outcome indicate that a man may have a fertility issue, and the doctor can start to discuss treatment options.
One issue with sperm analysis results is the collection method used. Men can go to a clinic to provide a sample or do the sampling in the comfort of their homes and take it to the lab. The clinic environs can be unpleasant and the stress may result in a less than ideal sample. If the man lives close to the clinic, he may want to ask about collecting at home to see if it's possible to get a cleaner sample on the first try.
Timing is also an issue. Men should refrain from ejaculating for at least two days before the test and may want to wait two to four weeks between tests if they need to provide another sample. Fertility can be variable in response to environmental and other factors, and thus one sample might yield a low sperm count, while the next could be normal. Staggering tests can help avoid the problem of getting samples at a bad time and skewing the sperm analysis results.
Processing can have a negative impact on the sperm analysis results. Ideally the sperm should be fresh and examined within two hours. If it is not, the laboratory might not be able to deliver the most accurate results with their analysis. Poor handling and storage at the facility can be an issue as well, which is why it is important to use a reputable lab. Good labs have clear protocols in place for handling all samples, with failsafe systems and checks to make sure these protocols are followed at all times.
Patients looking at sperm analysis results should also be aware that there can be considerable variability between individual men. Clinics can provide a rough average, based on experience with their patients and research into this subject. A man with values that appear to fall outside the average, however, may not necessarily have a problem. Patients should discuss the results with a medical professional to get some context about the numbers on the lab report. It's also important to be aware that each lab has its own standards, so a number from one lab might be interpreted differently than the same number at another facility.