USC Fertility

Abnormal Sperm Counts

Abnormal sperm counts and what they mean

For most men or couples seeking fertility treatment, one of the first actions our fertility specialists take is to order a complete semen analysis. This series of laboratory tests evaluates a sample of ejaculate, precisely measuring multiple factors to determine if there are abnormal sperm counts or other issues that could affect a man’s ability to father a child.

Because semen analysis results can vary over time, your male fertility specialist in Los Angeles may wish to repeat the testing to get complete, accurate information about abnormal sperm counts or any other male factor that could contribute to infertility.

Abnormal sperm counts tell just part of the story

A semen analysis doesn’t just determine whether the male partner has low or abnormal sperm counts. These comprehensive tests measure several factors related to the quality, quantity and movement of sperm, and can indicate whether the male reproductive system is functioning normally.

  • Total volume. Normal volume is 2-4 mL. Very low volume may indicate a problem with producing seminal fluid, a duct blockage or a prostate problem.
  • Sperm count. Normal range is 40 million to 300 million sperm per mL of fluid. While a count below 15 million is considered abnormal, counts of 20 million to 30 million may be adequate to achieve pregnancy if other sperm factors are normal.
  • Motility and velocity. Normally, at least 40% to 50% of sperm should be moving. Movement quality, graded on a scale of 0 to 4, should be 2 or higher.
  • Morphology. At least 4% of sperm should have a normal shape to enable swimming and fertilization. Using a strict Kruger morphology test, a normal result is for 14% or more of the sperm to have normal-shaped heads.
  • Liquefaction. A normal result is for liquefaction of the coagulated ejaculate to occur within 20 minutes of ejaculation. Problems with liquefaction may be due to issues with seminal vesicles or elevated levels of white blood cells.
  • Seminal fructose. If no sperm are visible, this test may help reveal whether blockages or structural abnormalities are present.

Depending on the findings of your semen analysis, additional tests may be ordered, such as:

  • Cultures to identify sexually transmitted diseases or bacterial infections
  • Genetic tests to check for chromosomal abnormalities or genetic disorders
  • Blood tests to measure testosterone and other hormone levels

Depending on test results, some men with abnormal sperm counts may need to see a urologist for further testing and evaluation.

Get tested, get answers

To learn more about abnormal sperm counts or to schedule an appointment with a male fertility specialist in Los Angeles, contact us.