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Semen Analysis: Understanding the Sperm Test Process and the Results

Did you know that up to 40% to 50% of couples with difficulty conceiving have a degree of male factor? In fact, male infertility is just as common as female infertility.

Believe it or not, sperm production is a delicate and complicated process that requires several organs to work in tandem. That’s why, when couples are struggling to get pregnant, it’s important to assess the fertility of both partners.

There are many tests to determine the cause of male infertility, one of which is a semen analysis. So, what is a semen analysis report and what information can it determine about a man’s sperm count and/or his level of unhealthy sperm?

Here we will explain the sperm analysis process and the results you can expect from a sperm test.

What Is Semen Analysis?

Semen analysis, also known as a sperm count test, measures the levels of healthy and unhealthy sperm a man has, as well as the sperm’s viability. This test will analyze the semen—the fluid containing sperm that is released during ejaculation.

When Should a Sperm Analysis Be Done?

If you and your partner have been unsuccessful in your attempts to get pregnant for over a year, you may want to get a sperm analysis done. A semen analysis will determine if low sperm count or sperm dysfunction could be the reason behind the infertility.

Having a low sperm count or having unhealthy/low-quality sperm can decrease your chances of getting your partner pregnant.

You may also want to get a sperm analysis if you have a history of any of the following issues:

  • Erection or ejaculation problems
  • Low sex drive
  • Pain, discomfort, a lump, or swelling in the testicle area
  • A history of testicle, prostate, or sexual issues
  • A groin, testicle, penis, or scrotum surgery
  • Vasectomy reversal

Alternately, sperm tests can also be conducted after a man has undergone a vasectomy. Your doctor may recommend getting a sperm analysis once a month for three months to determine if there is anymore sperm present in the semen.

How Is Semen Analysis Performed?

In order to test the male partner’s semen, your doctor will require a semen sample.

Typically, this involves ejaculating into a sterile cup in a private room at the doctor’s office via masturbation. The male partner also has the option of collecting his sample at home; however, you need to ensure the sample is kept at body temperature and that it is brought to the lab within an hour of collection. In this case, the doctor may provide you/your male partner with a special condom or a sterile cup to collect the semen sample.

Precautions to Take before Semen Analysis

To ensure the semen sample is viable, your doctor may require the male partner to abstain from sex or masturbation for a minimum of two days and a maximum of seven days before the sperm test.

The male partner should also avoid alcohol, caffeine, and marijuana for approximately two to five days before the sperm analysis. If the male partner’s taking any prescription medications or herbal supplements, make sure to inform the doctor before providing a sperm sample.

When collecting the sperm sample, do not use any lubrications or spermicides.

What Are the Causes of Unhealthy Sperm?

There are many reasons for unhealthy sperm, such as:

  • Lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Above-average alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • A previous STI
  • Sperm abnormalities
  • Ejaculation problems
  • Vasectomy
  • Prolonged heat exposure
  • Chemical exposure
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Certain medications

It is also possible to get an abnormal semen analysis report due to contamination of the sample. It may be recommended to repeat the test to confirm results are out of normal range.

What Does a Semen Analysis Report Tell You?

Once the doctor has the sperm sample, the lab technician will look at it under a microscope. By conducting a semen analysis, the lab tech and doctor can determine the following seven factors:

1. Sperm Shape

The shape and size of the sperm can affect a man’s fertility. Typically, 50% of the sperm needs to be normally shaped or it could reduce fertility. When conducting a sperm test, the lab will look for abnormalities in the sperm’s head, middle, or tail. Sometimes, sperm could be immature and unable to fertilize an egg.

2. Movement

Next, the lab tech will look to see how many sperm are moving and how they are moving. Ideally, 50% of the sperm should be active and moving normally for an hour after ejaculation. The sperm will be rated on a scale of 0 to 4 based on its movement, with 0 meaning the sperm are not moving and 4 meaning the sperm have good movement.

3. Volume

The lab will also make note of how much semen the male patient was able to provide in the sample. Normally, patients should be able to provide at least 1.5 millilitres or half a teaspoon. A low volume of semen could result in a lower sperm count to fertilize an egg; meanwhile, a high volume of semen could mean the sperm present are diluted.

4. Sperm Count

Typically, the normal sperm count for a semen analysis is between 15 million and 200 million per millilitre of semen. This is also known as sperm density. If the sperm count is too low, it will make it harder to conceive, as fewer sperm are present to fertilize the egg.

5. Liquification

Normally, semen is thick during ejaculation, but it should liquify within 15 to 30 minutes. It’s important for semen to liquify in order to move sperm. If semen doesn’t liquefy or it takes too long for liquification to occur, there may be a problem with the male’s fertility.

6. Chemical Makeup

A lab tech will examine the chemical makeup, particularly the pH levels, of the semen during a semen analysis report. A normal pH is between 7.1 and 8.0. Anything lower indicates that the male patient has acidic semen, or his ejaculatory ducts are blocked; meanwhile, anything higher means the man’s semen is alkaline and he may have an infection. An abnormal pH could result in unhealthy sperm.

7. Viability

The analysis will include obtaining data on the percentage of live sperm in your sample. This differentiates between live non motile sperm and dead sperm. The assessment of pre-incubation motility and post-incubation motility will provide an understanding of the viability of ejaculated sperm. Sperm should survive in the women’s reproductive track for several days.

Semen Analysis at ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo

At ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo, we provide our patients with the best comprehensive fertility care and guidance. Whether you require a semen analysis or are looking for ways to improve your chances of conceiving, our team of compassionate, experienced, and open-minded nurses, physicians, technicians, and administrative staff are with you every step of the way.

To learn more about our fertility clinic, our treatment options for unhealthy sperm, or to discuss your semen analysis report, give us a call or send us an email and we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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Reducing the Stress and Anxiety Associated with IVF

Dealing with infertility can be incredibly stressful for couples. And while it may feel like you are the only ones going through this difficult challenge, infertility is very common.

Approximately one in six couples in Canada experience infertility, which means that more people are undergoing fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) than you probably realize.

While IVF may be a common treatment, that does not mean it’s easy. When preparing for IVF, many couples experience stress and anxiety related to IVF, there can be strong emotions and anticipation involved.

Prioritizing your mental health is extremely important and having the right mindset will help you to achieve better results.

Here is how to reduce IVF stress and anxiety, as well as how to keep your mental health in check during your IVF treatments.

Factors That Influence IVF Stress and Anxiety

There are factors that might cause IVF stress and anxiety. IVF treatment may be a completely new experience for you and therefore cause a lot of confusion. You may not be familiar with the process, treatment, or side effects, which range from hot flashes to mood swings. The procedure also requires various injections, sonograms, and blood tests, which could increase anxiety about IVF.

IVF treatment is a time-consuming and emotionally invasive procedure. Waiting to hear whether an egg was successfully retrieved, if fertilization has occurred, or if the embryo transfer was successful can take a toll on your work, family, and social life.

Alternately, you might feel uncomfortable about your fertility struggles especially if it conflicts with your religious, social, or moral values.

5 Ways to Reduce IVF Stress and Anxiety

IVF is a journey, and it takes time to achieve the results you are hoping for. When preparing for IVF and all throughout your IVF treatment, make sure to prioritize your mental health. And remind yourself that you are not alone on this journey.

Here is how you can reduce IVF stress and anxiety.

1. Do Your Research

The best way to combat IVF anxiety is to be informed. The more you know about what to expect during the IVF treatment and the more research you do on the procedure, the more you will feel prepared, and the less stress you will have.

Talk to your fertility doctor about the IVF process and find out what you need to know when preparing for IVF. Also, take some time to read articles online about IVF, collect resources from your fertility clinic, and, if possible, talk to other couples who’ve also undergone IV treatment.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

The success rate for IVF treatment for women under 35 years of age is around 40%.

Some women may get pregnant with the first cycle of IVF, but for others it may take five or six attempts. It is important to have realistic expectations and understand that it may take longer than you hoped to get pregnant.

The best way to reduce your IVF stress and anxiety is to maintain your normal life outside of infertility. After all, not all couples conceive each month, even if they don’t have conditions that impact fertility.

3. Prioritize Communication within Your Relationship

When preparing for IVF, it’s important for couples to remember that they are together in this journey. Your partner is likely experiencing the stress and anxiety with you surrounding IVF.

Try to openly discuss your wants, hopes, and fears with each other, and be compassionate when your partner expresses their feelings. You may also find it helpful to talk to a therapist about your IVF stress and anxiety.

Keep in mind that you need to focus on your relationship outside of your IVF treatment, too. Plan a weekly date night, take a simple 15-minute walk together, or do something you both enjoy getting your mind off of your fertility struggles.

4. Build Your Support Network

Sometimes it can be hard to talk to your friends and family about your IVF treatment. Some couples choose to keep their fertility treatments private, while others find comfort in talking to loved ones about their worries. Do what feels right for you and your partner.

IVF anxiety is normal, and there are many people who have experienced the similar emotions you might be feeling right now. It could be helpful to join an IVF support group online or in person if your fertility clinic has one. You can also speak to a therapist or counsellor about your IVF stress and anxiety. Sometimes it helps to talk to people who truly understand what you are going through and who have the tools to help you along this journey.

5. Prioritize Self-Care

Undergoing IVF treatment can be overwhelming and consume a lot of your energy. While it is important to focus on your treatment, it is also important to prioritize your self-care.

Take some time to unwind and engage in activities you enjoy, such as taking a bubble bath, exercising, meditating, gardening, reading, or indulging in your favourite foods. Moderate exercise like walking or dancing can release endorphins to help relieve IVF-related stress.

Putting yourself first and listening to what your mind and body need is a great way to reduce IVF stress and anxiety. Do not lose sight of the person you were before your fertility struggles!

ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo’s IVF Treatment

At ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo, our goal is to provide our patients with the best medical care and to support their needs as they embark on their fertility journey. We want to end the stigma surrounding IVF treatment and help our patients understand their treatment plan throughout the entire process. Our evidence-based medical approach and compassionate care ensure that each patient receives safe and high-quality fertility treatment.

To learn more about our state-of-the-art fertility clinic, our IVF treatment options, and counselling services to help you reduce IVF stress and anxiety, give us a call or send us an email and we would be happy to answer any questions you might have about our fertility services, including preparing for IVF. Located in Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, we welcome patients from Cambridge, Guelph, Woodstock, Listowel, Fergus, Elmira, Milton, Owen Sound, and other areas of Ontario.

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What Is Embryo Cryopreservation?

Embryo freezing, also known as embryo cryopreservation, is a common procedure that many couples choose to undergo during their conception journey.

It is relatively safe and can often lead to a successful pregnancy and delivery later on.

But what exactly does the process entail? And what is the success rate of embryo cryopreservation? Here’s what you need to know about embryo freezing and whether it’s the right procedure for you.

The Embryo Cryopreservation Process

Embryo freezing is a way to preserve embryos for future use. It is part of most in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) processes.

When preparing embryos for storage, the embryos are cryopreserved and stored at an extremely low temperature, where they can remain for years. The embryos can later be thawed and transferred into the uterus.

Here are the steps required for embryo cryopreservation.

Step 1: Egg Retrieval

Typically, a woman releases one mature egg per ovulation cycle. To improve the chances of retrieving a viable egg for cryopreservation, the woman must first take hormone injections for 8-10 days, which will allow multiple eggs to mature and develop in the ovaries.

Retrieving the egg is a rather simple procedure that requires conscious anesthesia. It has minimal side effects, including mild cramping.

Step 2: Insemination

The next step in embryo cryopreservation is insemination. In order for an egg to become an embryo, it needs to be fertilized with sperm. The egg is inseminated in a petri dish and then, once fertilized, it must develop for 5-7 days.

More than one egg can be retrieved and inseminated. The number of embryos that are viable to freeze often depends on the woman’s age (more embryos are viable when the woman is under 35 years of age).

Step 3: Genetic Testing

Not all couples need to undergo this step, but it’s an option for people who want to test their embryos for genetic abnormalities.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is especially useful when one parent is a carrier of a known genetic condition, such as Huntington’s Disease, because PGD can prevent you from unknowingly transferring the condition to your future child.

Step 4: Embryo Freezing

Before an embryo can be frozen, it must first go through cryopreservation. This entails removing water from the cell and replacing it with a cryoprotectant agent (CPA). This is to protect the cells from forming ice crystals.

There are two methods that fertility doctors can use for embryo freezing: slow freezing and vitrification.

Slow freezing involves placing the embryos in a sealed container and gradually lowering the temperature. While it prevents the embryos from aging and reduces the risk of damage, it’s rather time-consuming (it could take over two hours) and it’s an expensive process.

On the other hand, vitrification involves rapidly freezing the embryos and using much higher strengths of CPAs. The embryos are frozen so quickly that they don’t have time to form ice crystals, thus protecting the embryos and increasing the survival rate when thawed.

Approximately 95% of embryos survive the freezing process. After the embryo freezing process, they are stored in liquid nitrogen and can be frozen for many years.

Step 5: Embryo Transfer

The final step in embryo cryopreservation occurs when the woman or couple decides they want to conceive and therefore thaws the embryos.

The embryos are slowly thawed and soaked in special fluids to remove the CPAs and restore the cells’ natural water content.

Using a very soft catheter, and under ultrasound guidance, the embryo is gently inserted directly into the woman’s uterus with the hopes of becoming a successful pregnancy.

Why Are Embryos Cryopreserved?

There are many reasons why couples might choose embryo freezing. Here are a few of them:

Delaying Pregnancy

Sometimes, it boils down to timing. Nowadays, it’s common for women to want to focus on other aspects of their life first (e.g. their career) before conceiving a child. In this case, women might choose to freeze their eggs, so that they can be used at a later date.

As women age, the quality and quantity of their eggs decreases, especially after turning 35 years old. Since frozen embryos contain younger eggs, there is less risk of pregnancy complications should a woman choose to have a baby later in life.

Upcoming Medical Treatments

Other times embryo cryopreservation provides women who are undergoing medical treatments that might affect fertility (e.g. chemotherapy) the opportunity to save embryos and use them at a later date. It’s also common for women who have genetic disorders that could affect reproduction to want to freeze their embryos.

Additional Embryos

When a patient undergoes IVF, it’s common for multiple embryos to be created. Rather than destroying the extra embryos, couples may opt to freeze them instead. The couple can choose to use the frozen embryos later to have another child or they can be saved and given to someone else through a donor program.

Many same sex-couples and other LGBTQ+ people who wish to have children might opt for in vitro fertilization using a sperm donor or egg donor. Embryo freezing allows them to store their embryos to use at a later date, as well.

The Success Rate When Using Thawed Embryos

One of the benefits of embryo cryopreservation is that it provides the opportunity for fertility doctors to transfer embryos in the future without needing to retrieve eggs again.

The success rate for embryo cryopreservation is relatively high, which is why it’s a popular procedure. Research shows that babies born after cryopreservation show no increase in developmental abnormalities compared to babies born from fresh embryos; however, further long-term studies are required to confirm these findings.

Some research suggests that transferring frozen embryos as opposed to fresh embryos may actually increase the chances of a successful pregnancy and have better outcomes for both the mother and baby.

Risks & Side Effects when Extracting Embryos for Storage

Women who undergo embryo cryopreservation may experience mild side effects. Typically, any complications or side effects of embryo freezing will occur when the doctor is extracting the eggs.

Some of the common side effects include:

  • Cramping or bloating
  • Feeling full
  • Light bleeding
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Infection
  • Overstimulation of the ovaries

While embryo freezing is a rather safe and straightforward procedure, one of the major risks associated with extracting embryos for storage is that it may result in multiple pregnancies. Multiple pregnancies could be associated with higher risk of complications for both the mother and fetus, which is why many fertility clinics recommend transferring only one embryo at a time for patients under 38 years of age.

ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo’s Embryo Storage Service

At ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo, our goal is to provide our patients with the best medical care and to support their needs as they embark on their fertility journey, whether that be through IVF, cycle monitoring, or embryo freezing. Our evidence-based medical approach and compassionate care ensure that our patients understand their treatment plan throughout the entire process and receive safe and high-quality fertility treatment with excellent success rates.

To learn more about our state-of-the-art fertility clinic, our treatment options, and counselling services, give us a call or send us an email and we would be happy to answer any questions you might have about our fertility services, including our embryo cryopreservation success rates.

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Cycle Monitoring: What to Expect, the Benefits, and the Limitations

Sometimes when trying to conceive, couples find themselves hitting a roadblock. After all, there are a lot of factors to consider, from having the right hormone levels to determining the exact window of ovulation.

If this sounds like a scenario you and your partner are facing, there’s no need to be embarrassed or intimidated. Fertility clinics offer a wide variety of treatments, such as cycle monitoring to help you better understand what’s going on in your body and help you conceive, whether you want to do it naturally or through insemination.

What is the cycle monitoring process and how can cycle monitoring benefit couples who are struggling to get pregnant?

Here’s what you need to know about cycle monitoring and what you can expect from this fertility service.

What Is the Purpose of Cycle Monitoring?

When trying to conceive, timing is everything. Cycle monitoring is the process of observing a variety of factors within a woman’s body throughout the menstrual cycle to determine the right window of opportunity to get pregnant.

It’s an important part of the initial fertility treatment process, because it determines if there are any underlying issues with various elements of the reproductive system. The optimum time to try to conceive naturally also becomes evident. Cycle monitoring, therefore, may give valuable information about the menstrual cycle and may also enhance the probability of conception.

Cycle monitoring typically occurs during the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It can be done on a natural cycle or while using fertility medication to stimulate the ovaries.

By performing various examinations during the cycle monitoring process, the fertility doctor can determine the following information:

  • Whether and when you are ovulating
  • Whether your hormone cycle is normal
  • Whether an ovarian follicle (containing an egg) is growing
  • Whether your endometrium is preparing for implantation of a fertilized egg (either naturally or through insemination)
  • The thickness of the lining of your uterus (endometrium)

With this information, the fertility doctor can determine the best days for you and your partner to have intercourse to maximize the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.

Sometimes cycle monitoring might be the only procedure you require from a fertility clinic. Other times, it might be part of further fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

What Can You Expect with Cycle Monitoring?

Depending on why you are undergoing cycle monitoring, your doctor will monitor one monthly menstrual cycle. You can expect to visit the fertility clinic a few times throughout your cycle.

Typically, cycle monitoring involves having internal (trans-vaginal) ultrasounds and blood tests done at intervals throughout your cycle, so that your doctor can monitor your hormone levels and the growth of your follicle(s).

Day 2-4 of Your Cycle

Your cycle monitoring begins as soon as you start menstruating. It’s important to visit the fertility clinic either on day two, three, or four of your cycle, so that can the required bloodwork and ultrasound are performed.

During your first examination, you will have your reproductive hormone levels assessed and ultrasound to determine how many resting follicles you have. Ultrasound is also used to examine your ovaries and womb to exclude abnormalities, such as cysts and fibroids.

Day 10-12 of Your Cycle

Your second examination occurs shortly before you are expected to ovulate. During this examination, your doctor will once again examine your hormone levels through bloodwork. They will then perform an ultrasound to determine if a follicle has matured, and whether the endometrium has thickened.

Over the last few days, your follicles should have grown about 1-2 mm in size each day. Once you have a mature follicle that is 20-24 mm in diameter and a measurable surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) level, you are ready for insemination. If you want to conceive naturally, your doctor will instruct you to begin having intercourse daily, for two to three days.

If you want to be inseminated, the fertility clinic will schedule you an appointment for your insemination the next day.

One week after Ovulation

After you have ovulated, your doctor will once again check your hormone levels, particularly progesterone. The presence of progesterone is required for the embryo to implant in the endometrium.

If your doctor determines that an embryo has not implanted or that there is an issue with ovulation, they may recommend a hormone treatment. This will facilitate egg maturation and induce ovulation. Administering progesterone can also help with the implantation stage and lead to a successful conception.

Cycle monitoring can be carried out over several menstrual cycles in order to note patterns. Menstrual cycles vary each month, so performing cycle monitoring for two to three consecutive months—although it’s not always necessary—might produce results.

What Are the Benefits of Cycle Monitoring?

There are many benefits of cycle monitoring, including the following:

  • Informative: Cycle monitoring can provide patients with valuable information about the cause of their fertility struggles, so they can work with their doctor to find the best treatment option for their needs.
  • Safe: Cycle monitoring is completely safe, because it doesn’t involve the use of any medications, especially during natural cycle monitoring, meaning the risk of side effects is virtually non-existent.
  • Easy: Natural cycle monitoring is a simple and straightforward procedure. It doesn’t cause any physical strain on the patient and is therefore considered rather stress-free.
  • Affordable: Cycle monitoring and other services to diagnose infertility and support natural conception are covered by OHIP; however, should you decide to pursue other fertility treatments not covered by OHIP, many employee benefit programs also provide partial or full coverage for the treatments.

What Are the Limitations and Side Effects of Cycle Monitoring?

When natural cycle monitoring is performed, there are virtually no side effects. However, sometimes medications might be administered during the cycle monitoring process to help with implantation or during the IVF or IUI cycle.

Side effects of medications include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes

While cycle monitoring is an effective way to track your fertility and gather valuable information about your ovulation, it has limitations. It requires a few visits to the clinic, for blood work and internal ultrasound. It does not directly deal with more serious fertility issues.

Fertility services are an individualized process and results will vary from person to person. Sperm abnormalities and advanced age in the woman could lower the success rate of cycle monitoring.

Often, if three medicated cycle monitoring procedures have not rendered positive results, you may need to reconsider whether further treatment options, such as IVF and IUI, are necessary to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo’s Cycle Monitoring Service

At ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo, we believe in providing our patients with comprehensive fertility care and customized treatment options that suit the needs and comfort level of each individual patient. Our evidence-based medical approach and compassionate care ensure that our patients understand their treatment plan throughout the entire process and receive safe and high-quality fertility treatment with high success rates.

To learn more about our state-of-the-art fertility clinic, our treatment options, and counselling services, give us a call or send us an email and we would be happy to answer any questions you might have about our fertility services.


4271 King St East, Suite 200
Kitchener, ON
N2P 2X7

Working Hours

Monday-Friday: 7am-3pm
Saturday-Sunday: 8am-12pm

Contact Us

Phone: 519.650.0011
Fax: 519.650.0033