Semen analysis

Information for patients for fertility testing

Telephone the histology department for an appointment and to arrange delivery of your specimen collection kit for analysis on 01922 656871. Please do not use any other container as this will be rejected.

Appointments are available: Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 3.30pm. Please expect there to be a 7-10 day wait for the next available appointment.
A map showing you how to get to the department should be provided along with the request form during your initial appointment with your GP/referring doctor.

You must not have had intercourse or masturbated for 48 hours before collecting the sample, but should have had an abstinence period of no longer than seven days.

Samples will be rejected if received outside this 2-7 day screening window.

First, wash your hands and genitals with soap and water, please ensure complete removal of all soap residues and dry thoroughly. The specimen must be produced by masturbation and collected in the sterile pot provided by the department. Provide a complete sample. The first part of the sample contains most of the sperm so if some is lost it will affect the overall test.

Do not use a condom or lubricant as they are harmful to sperm and subsequent analysis. Do not open the container until you are ready to produce the sample. Please make sure that you seal the container immediately after sample collection, and label the specimen container with your name and the date and time of production.
This sample must be kept warm, either in an inside pocket or against the skin, as a drop in temperature could kill sperm.
The sample should be delivered to the hospital as quickly as possible, but must be within one hour of production. This is essential as fertility testing requires semen samples to be screened within the first 60 minutes post-ejaculation.

Patients without an appointment will be re-scheduled for another date. No specimen will be accepted without an appointment. You must bring with you the request form which you were given by your doctor/consultant. Please ensure that the forms are correctly filled out with:

  • your details
  • your partner’s name
  • the requesting doctors name

Answer all the questions regarding collection of the sample. No specimen will be accepted without this form.

The sample must be received by a member of the histopathology department. On arrival to the department, you will be asked what time the sample was produced. This is to make sure the testing of the sample is optimal. Please allow up to 14 days for your results. The sample will be examined on receipt. This report will be issued directly to the requesting doctor/consultant. The laboratory staff cannot give out results directly to patients.

If the sample is poor, or has a low sperm count, you may be asked to repeat your sample by your doctor.

Information for patients for post-vasectomy analysis

The sample should be collected from at least 16 weeks following the vasectomy. There should have been at least 24 ejaculations before the sample is submitted for examination. This should reduce the number of false positives and minimise repeat examinations.

Please follow the advice for booking an appointment, kit delivery and sample production as per the guidance listed above for samples for fertility testing. This sample must be kept warm, either in an inside pocket or against the skin, as a drop in temperature could kill sperm. The sample should be delivered to the hospital as quickly as possible, but must be within one hour of production.

Laboratory staff can not give out results directly to patients. Please allow up to 14 days for your results. Use contraception until you have had your results from your doctor. Your GP/Consultant will advise you of your results and if you need to produce further samples.

Information for clinicians

Please refer to the general information pages regarding clinical advice (see below for reference ranges). Request forms are available here. Please remember to print off the request form for the patient and sign. Patients without a relevant request form will not be accepted and the sample will be rejected.

Pre-weighed and toxicity tested specimen containers for sample collection will be sent out directly to the patient once an appointment has been arranged. Please allow at least 7 days between telephoning the lab and the appointment.

Sample containers can be picked up directly from the department by the patient upon request, however, there are no facilities for samples to be produced on site.

Post-vasectomy guidelines 2016 BAS/ABA, state that one semen sample at 16-18 weeks post-vasectomy is sufficient for clearance if no sperm are seen in the sample. If sperm are seen in the sample, then two further samples are recommended, each to be analysed within one hour.

Special clearance

Special clearance can be given by the referring clinician not the laboratory if less than 100,000 sperm/ml are present in each of the two samples tested.

Reference ranges

Reports after April 1st 2015 will be published against the reference values from the updated WHO guidelines (2010). Motility will be reported as 3 categories instead of 4. If one or more of the sperm parameters are below the ‘normal’ range your doctor may provide you with a further request form and pot for a repeat test.

Lower reference limits to the 5th centile for semen characteristics, using criteria from the WHO 5th Manual (2010):

Variable Value 95% Confidence interval
Volume 1.5 ml 1.4-1.7
pH 7.2 or more
Sperm concentration  >15 million per ml 12-16
Total motility at 37oC* 40% 38-42
Progresssive motility at 37oC* >32% 30-34
Morphology** >4% normal forms 3.0-4.0

*Within 60 minutes of ejaculation.
**Only when values fall below 15% normal morphology does the fertilisation rate decrease.

All paper reports issued include comments on the lower limit reference range used in the interpretation of the report. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the histology department.


Please note that the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs (prescription or otherwise) may affect your semen analysis results. Abnormalities with the sample can occur for a number of reasons e.g. previous illness, stress or medication.