When your semen analysis results are just plain wrong

We get many enquires to the clinic from patients that have had semen analysis results from the NHS, or from clinics, and have been told their semen analysis is abnormal. Thus they are infertile. In a lot of cases this is just plain wrong.

The reference ranges of semen analysis were decided many years ago by the world health organisation. However, they are just that, reference ranges. They do not tell you that a man is definitely, or indeed that he is not. The only true indication that a man is fertile is a successful pregnancy. This can be achieved by sperm counts well below what is considered “normal” by the WHO.

The real value of testing sperm is when you understand and consider sperm counts in a clinical context. That is a couples actual circumstances. For example a man that is found to have 12 million sperm per ml has technically a low sperm count. However, if this man has children and has only be trying to conceive for a short period of time, to consider him infertile would be illogical and of course wrong.

But this is a regular occurrence and ironically this information when relayed so wrongly can actually create a fertility problem. This is because when a man is told he has a low sperm count it can affect his mental well being. It can lead individuals to believe that natural conception is not possible. Therefore a couples stops trying to conceive naturally, believing their effects to be futile.

Semen analysis test results should always be interpreted by male fertility consultants and professionals to really understand a man’s true fertility potential.

Claire Mooney

Consultant Embryologist