As a reproductive specialist, a big part of my job is setting realistic expectations for patients not just about their success rates, but also about their experience in our office.
One of the most anxiety provoking things for men is collecting sperm. Often times it is in fear of finding out that they have low sperm counts, and sometimes its because masturbating in a semi-public area elicits A LOT of anxiety. My job is to be forthcoming about what that experience is like.
First of all, semen analysis is the gold standard for test for determining whether there is a male factor contributing to infertility. A semen analysis gives us information about semen volume, sperm count, sperm motility and morphology, BUT, IT IS BY NO MEANS PERFECT. Semen analyses can vary widely from ejaculate to ejaculate and marijuana, narcotics, and testosterone will lower your sperm count and can affect motility. Cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine have been linked to issues with motility as well. So if one semen analysis is abnormal, we usually check a second time.
We usually ask that you abstain from ejaculation for 2-5 days before submitting a sample for analysis. Collecting sperm can be done at the home or at the clinic. If you are doing it at home, you’ll need to get your entire sample into a cup (one from your local pharmacy such as a small Tupperware will do) and get it to the clinic within 30-60 minutes. This can be cumbersome if you live far away. Sometimes people have go to a local hospital lab which means masturbating in a public hospital bathroom stall – awesome.
While collection rooms are no replacement for the privacy of one’s home, they often provide digital or print media and space for one’s partner to join if needed. If there are issues with erectile dysfunction or any other sexual dysfunction, talk to your doctor about strategies for collection.
Home testing is another alternative for an affordable and accessible first step. It’s not a replacement for a full semen analysis but the YO Sperm Test accurately reports moving sperm, has an excellent video and is FDA and CE cleared. Again, it doesn’t replace the need for semen analysis in couples who have not achieved a pregnancy in 6-12 moths of unprotected intercourse, but it can give men and their partners a tool to assess his sperm sooner and will either provide reassurance or a new sense of urgency.