Sperm Testing at Cape Fertility


There are many factors that can cause male infertility, but top of the list is problems with sperm production or the quality of the sperm.

Fortunately, today’s routine and advanced male sperm tests allow our team at Cape Fertility to pinpoint the medical problem that is causing male infertility, and also to recommend the best treatment for it to ensure the best results.

In this article, we will explain the routine and advanced sperm tests that we do at Cape Fertility and what these tests can reveal about your sperm and the fertility challenges you face.

Male infertility is a relatively common medical condition that is solely responsible for 20-30% of infertility cases and contribute to approximately 50% of cases overall.

Male infertility can be caused by a range of factors, from obvious reasons such as a vasectomy or a spinal cord injury, and medical conditions or even medications that affect sexual performance and fertility, to lifestyle factors, the use of steroids or testosterone, and even environmental factors like working with chemicals and heat. Male fertility levels can also decline due to, for example, age, stress and a compromised immune system.

The top cause of infertility in men, however, is problems with sperm production, or the quality of the sperm. In fact, male fertility is defined by “sperm quality”, which refers to semen volume, sperm count, sperm motility or movement, and sperm morphology or shape.

For this reason, at Cape Fertility, we offer routine sperm tests to all couples, as well as the latest and most advanced in male fertility testing, such as DNA fragmentation and a spectrum of sperm function tests, that can assess, for example, whether the sperm can penetrate an egg.

Routine Sperm Tests

After a thorough medical review, the first male infertility test that we do at Cape Fertility is a sperm test.

A sperm test shows if the sperm sample is compatible with fertility, so a pregnancy can be expected. If the test values do not fall completely within the ‘normal’ parameters, this doesn’t mean that the patient is infertile, nor does it mean that a pregnancy cannot be achieved.

The semen analysis checks the volume of the sperm to determine a possible obstruction between where the sperm is produced and ejaculation. It also measures the concentration of the sperm and the pH thereof, as well as the motility of the sperm and its morphology, which refers to how the sperm looks. We might also check for antibodies that might hinder the sperm from moving normally.

Here are some of the factors we look at on the semen analysis report from our labs.

Volume of the sperm – A normal volume is at least 1.5ml. If the volume is much lower than this, it raises the concern that there is an obstruction at some point between where the sperm is produced and ejaculation.

Concentration of the sperm – One measurement of this is to look at how much sperm there is in the entire sample and another how much sperm there is per millilitre of sample. If the sample is 3ml, we look at 1ml of the sample and determine how many sperm are in that 1ml sample. The testes make millions of sperm, and what we would usually regard as normal is around 15 million sperm.

Motility – General motility refers to what percentage of the sperm are moving, even if they are just twitching or swimming around in circles. Progressive motility refers to the percentage of the sperm that are not just moving, but also actually making progress in its movement. Around 42% for total motility is considered to be within normal range and 32% for rapidly progressive sperm or sperm that is moving from point A to point B.

Morphology – This refers to how the sperm looks. Men are often shocked to hear only 4% or 5% of sperm are normal-looking, but the testicles make millions and millions of sperm, so there is likely to be quite a few errors and that is usually the case.

pH – This can provide information about what’s happening with the ejaculatory ducts that make the fluid to support the sperm.

We also look at the vitality, so how many of the sperm are alive. We might also check for antibodies, because if you have had a previous vasectomy and a reversal, there can sometimes be antibodies that might hinder the sperm from moving normally.

Advanced sperm function tests

There are more advanced tests we can do at Cape Fertility when necessary thanks to our advanced facilities and technology.

One example is DNA fragmentation, which looks at the DNA integrity of the sperm. We might recommend doing this test when the semen analysis parameters are normal, but we suspect an underlying cause of infertility. A DNA fragmentation test is more involved, and it tells us how much of the sperm has intact DNA.

There is also a whole spectrum of sperm function tests that can also be done to see, for example, whether the sperm can penetrate an egg.

A conventional semen analysis cannot assess the sperm at the molecular level or the detection of DNA fragmentation. For this reason, at Cape Fertility we offer advanced sperm functional testing which includes the assessment of Sperm DNA Fragmentation (SDF), Sperm Chromatin Condensation and seminal Oxidative Reductive Stress testing.

For successful fertilisation and normal embryo development, the integrity of genetic material in the sperm is crucial. Sperm DNA fragmentation describes the genetic material within the sperm, because if the DNA is not intact, it can negatively impact male fertility and affect IVF/ICSI outcomes, and it has also been shown to be associated with miscarriage.

The ORP test is novel in the area of infertility. The MiOXSYS system provides an estimation of the static oxidation-reduction potential (sORP). It represents the integrated measure of the existing balance between total oxidants and reductants in a biological system.

When is advanced testing necessary?

Sperm functional testing is recommended when a couple experiences unexplained infertility; arrested embryo development; poor blastocyst development; multiple failed IVF/ICSI treatments; recurrent miscarriage; advanced chronological age; varicocoele; poor semen parameters; and exposure to harmful substances.

This is because sperm functional testing offers several advantages such as a comprehensive analysis of sperm DNA integrity, sperm chromatin packaging, and seminal oxidative reductive potential, that may help to identify fertility challenges, and also provides information that helps in the clinical diagnosis, management and treatment of male fertility.

Where to get routine and advanced sperm testing

If you are concerned about your fertility or would need to have a routine or advanced sperm test, we invite you to set up an initial consultation with one of our fertility experts at Cape Fertility. It is as simple as contacting us here

All the latest male fertility tests and treatments are used with great success at Cape Fertility’s custom-designed premises situated in the Claremont Medical Village in the beautiful city of Cape Town, and we are also registered and accredited by the Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG).

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with individualised and personalised care, affordable quality fertility treatment, and higher success rates at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town.