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Are sperm tests helpful?

Of course, I always request a sperm test and blood tests when it comes to male fertility. These in conjunction with a medical history and family history can be really helpful. Many times, when talking to the couple they reassure me that the sperm has been tested and the doctor said it was all good, no problem there.

The current guidelines set out by WHO state the lowest 5 percentile as normal. For example, sperm motility is considered normal if it is above 40% meaning that at least 40% of sperm are moving. This is usually stated in the semen analysis. So if you are in the lowest 5 percentile, 40% of you sperm are moving and you are good to go. We don’t believe that the lowest 5 percentile will give you the best chance for fertility. According to WHO the average motility is 61%. So your aim should be to get close to the average and not just the lowest at 5%.

It’s also interesting to note, that according to WHO’s manual, published in 1980, the recommendation for motility was >60%, then it was reduced in 1999 to >50% and the most recent update to >40%. This shows the decline in sperm quality over the years and what is considered normal now, was far from normal in 1980. Even more, the reason to not accept the very lowest parameters.

This is the reason I always request to see a copy of the sperm test as I know from experience that the lowest 5 percentile does not give couples the best chances of conception.

Incidentally, similar issues arise with blood tests. Some ranges that the labs consider normal are very outdated, or borderline ranges are accepted as normal. I like to aim for optimal. I am sure you would like to do everything in your power to conceive, and not only to conceive but to conceive a healthy baby.

Our aim is to achieve optimal health of both partners, to give the baby the best chance in life.


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