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What is a semen analysis and will it tell me if I am fertile?

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Semen is the fluid that a man ejaculates. This fluid is produced at several different sites. The sperm within the semen are the cells that actually fertilize the egg and are therefore the most important to assess. However, the sperm account for only 1-2 % of the semen volume. Problems with the surrounding fluid may also interfere with the movement and function of the sperm. Therefore, both the sperm and the fluid must be tested.

There is no absolute numerical cutoff between the semen analysis of men whose partners will get pregnant and those who won't. The partners of some men with a very poor semen analysis may conceive easily. The partners of some men with an excellent semen analysis may experience difficulty. However, men with good semen analysis results will, as a group, conceive at significantly higher rates than those with poor semen analysis results. The semen analysis will help determine whether there is a male factor involved in the couple's sub-fertility. If so, an evaluation is usually indicated. Some findings of the semen analysis suggest certain specific potential problems. For example, an increased white blood cell count may indicate infection or inflammation. However, other abnormalities in many of the main parameters are non-specific. For example, there are a number of different causes for a decreased count or diminished movement. Some of these causes have other serious medical implications. A thorough evaluation helps determine the cause of an abnormal semen analysis and rules out medical problems.

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