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E is for Explanations: Understanding the terminology used in sperm test reports

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

This is Blog #3 in our S.P.E.R.M Blog series for National Fertility Awareness Week 2023

A semen analysis report provides various information that can help determine if any sperm parameters might be affecting your fertility. If any parameter is outside of the World Health Organisation ‘decision values’, then it will be reported as sub-optimal. Any affected sperm are more likely to have difficulty reaching and penetrating the egg, making conception problematic.

Let's look at the terms used to describe conditions in which one or more of these factors are sub-optimal.

#1 - Aspermia

Not semen is visibly produced. This could be because the semen

travels in a retrograde direction into the bladder, due to a possible weakness in the bladder neck or previous surgery in this area.

#2 - Azoospermia

No sperm is detected in the semen. We then need to perform further investigations to see what the cause is, e.g. is this is due to a possible blockage?

#3 - Oligozoospermia

The sperm concentration is lower than the decision limit of 16 million sperm per ml.

#4 - Asthenozoospermia

Less than 30% of the sperm are swimming progressively forward.

#5 - Teratozoospermia

Less than 4% of the sperm are normally shaped.

"Let your hopes shape your future" – Robert H Schuller

#6 - Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OATS)

Less than 16 million sperm per ml with less than 30% being forward swimming and less than 4% being normally shaped.

#7 - Necrospermia

No sperm are alive (this is different to swim that are not moving but could be alive and therefore viable for a fertility treatment such as ICSI).

#8 - Leucospermia

There are a high number of white blood cells (more than one million/mL) in the semen, This may be associated with an infection.

If sub-optimal results are reported, it is worthwhile producing a second sample for another assessment a few weeks later. This can confirm if this diagnosis is correct. If so, then additional tests can be considered to help understand the underlying cause.

For example, if azoospermia is reported, it is important to establish whether this is the result of an obstruction in the tube which carries the sperm from the testis to the ejaculate (vas deferens) or whether the testes are simply not making sperm.

For the latter, it is useful to check your levels of certain fertility hormone, such as Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinising Hormone (LH) and Testosterone. Low or high levels of these hormones can indicate issues in sperm production.

There may also be genetic reasons for azoospermia. A blood test for "karyotype analysis" can diagnose chromosomal abnormalities, For example, some men may have an extra X-chromosome, a conditions known as Klinefelter's syndrome (karyotype 47XXY). If so, the Klinefelter's Syndrome Association is a useful resource.

Do you have any questions about the terminology used in sperm test reports?

We hope this blog has helped you with some facts about terminology used with sperm reports. For further information, please contact us on:


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