Yes, getting your semen tested is a little weird. Handing a cup of your own semen to another human is a character-building experience most men would prefer to avoid.

But sperm hold critical information, and early testing and education can have a big impact on your fertility and health. Here are a few useful things to know about sperm when trying to figure out next steps on your fertility journey.

“Technique” matters

Surprisingly, the way a sample is collected can greatly influence numbers. Abstinence time prior to sample collection is important – most experts recommend 2 to 7 days to “replenish” the sperm supply and get an accurate reading. Lubricants or condoms often contain chemicals that can interfere with the test, so it is best to avoid them. The first few drops have a higher portion of sperm in them so it is important to have the cup within reach so you don’t miss any. And, if you can, try to relax and enjoy it – raising your level of “excitement” can actually improve your sperm quality.

semen sample collection infographic

More is better

Many fertility labs will classify semen results as “normal” or “abnormal” based on the World Health Organization guidelines for male fertility. These cutoffs are a little controversial in the field because male fertility is not really “yes” or “no” – it’s more of a sliding scale where more is better. So, if you are just below the cutoff, you might be fine. Likewise, if you are just above the cutoff your sperm are probably not optimal. Many studies show that partners of men with more healthy sperm tend to conceive faster.

Sperm counts change over time

In fact all semen parameters can fluctuate. A lot. Before making any major decision, it is best to test at least twice, if not more, to get a good baseline average rather than relying on a just a single test.

There are things you can do to improve your sperm

Being good to your body can impact your sperm. Diet, exercise, stress, heat exposure and the like have all been linked to poor semen quality in several research studies. While these behaviors aren’t the only reason your sperm count could be a little low, it’s worth taking a few steps to improve your health and habits if you’re trying to conceive. If you’d like to measure progress, you might want to check out Trak, a home testing system that allows you to track your sperm count monthly to see how you are doing.

Sperm can provide a window to a man’s health

Sperm are incredibly sensitive cells and can provide an early warning to other health conditions. Several studies have linked poor semen quality with long term risk of chronic disease and premature death. Bottom line, if you have an abnormal test result, it is a good idea to get a full evaluation by a urologist who specializes in male reproductive health to better understand what is going on. Early action can make a big difference not only for your fertility goals, but your long term health as well.

sperm and mens health infographic

Pay attention to your sperm

Sperm are not as straight-forward as many people initially think. They are play an important role in a couple’s ability to conceive and are a leading indicator of a man’s overall health. By paying attention to your sperm you can better understand what is impacting your health and make more informed choices on your journey to parenthood.


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About the Author

Sara Naab is a co-founder of Sandstone Diagnostics, the company behind the Trak, The award winning system that allows men to measure and improve reproductive health from the comfort and privacy of home and the editor of, a light-hearted guide to male fertility. She is furiously passionate that we can do better when it comes to male fertility and men’s reproductive health.