Semen and sperm are the two terms that are always used interchangeably but to your surprise, these are two different things. Many people, especially couples who are trying to conceive, find themselves in a tight spot when they are asked to undertake a semen analysis test. It is important for every couple to understand the basic difference between semen and sperm.
Sperm is a motile reproductive cell, not visible with the naked eyes, which is transferred to the female reproductive system during sexual intercourse.
During the fertilization process, the sperm’s nucleus fuses with the egg’s nucleus to form an embryo. This embryo grows into a baby.
Semen is the seminal fluid which contains the sperm cells along with other plasma liquid. It is white, yellow or slightly greyish in color and viscous in consistency. It is released from the penis.
Semen is responsible for transmission of the motile sperm cells into the reproductive organ of the female. After some time of ejaculation, the semen changes into a jelly-like or sticky material.
Components of Semen
The primary constituents of semen include sperm cells, fructose, prostaglandins, amino acids, enzymes, flavins, citric acid, proteins, phosphorylcholine, vitamin C, zinc, acid phosphatase, prostate specific antigen, sialic acid, and mucus.
Generally, the couples dealing with infertility are prescribed semen analysis test which is basically an analysis of semen and its constituents.
It is not uncommon that a man may have an ejaculation and semen will be produced, however this semen sample may be void of sperm cells giving rise to the condition of azoospermia or “no sperm count” which is a condition characterized by a total absence of sperm in ejaculation. It affects 5 percent of infertile men. The absence of sperm in the semen fluid, could be due to a variety of factors such as a problem with the process of sperm production or a blockage wherein the normal sperm production could not reach the ejaculate. In this case, the doctors prescribe fructose testing of semen. It is to be noted that fructose is fabricated by the seminal vesicle in the male reproductive organ. It is released in semen during the process of ejaculation. The presence of fructose in the semen sample is an indication of sperm production in the man.
Semen analysis is also known as seminogram. It is done to analyse the characteristics of semen, as well as the sperm, present in the semen.
The semen analysis test is the first diagnostic test done to evaluate the male fertility in the couples who are trying to conceive and also, post the process of vasectomy, to determine its success.
A semen analysis test analyses the external characteristics of the sperm such as count, motility and shape in addition to evaluating the overall volume of sample provided, pH of the sample and presence of other constituents.
Other indications of this test include testing the donor for sperm donation, to check for azoospermia, as a part of routine pre-pregnancy tests, or in cases of some underlying pathology.