Technique

At least two samples (separated by a minimum of 1 week) are essential for diagnostic accuracy. The patient must be provided within clean (ideally sterile), wide-necked, dry, additive-free containers for specimen collection. Appropriate instructions must also be provided with regard to—

1. Length of abstinence: 2-3 days is ideal. A shorter period may result in abnormally lowered sperm counts, while a longer period of abstinence may result in a higher proportion of poorly motile sperms.

2. Site of sample production: providing the patient does not live more than 45 minutes away from the laboratory, the sample may be produced at home.

3. Time of semen production: samples produced and delivered in the morning allow maximal time for analytical tests.

4. Method of sample production: usually performed by masturbation but patient may chose to use coitus interruptus (risk of semen spillage) or non-toxic silastic condoms. Ordinary condoms contain rubber and spermicides which obliterate sperm motility.

5. Transport of sample: maintaining the sample at body temperature is ideal and excessive heating or cooling must be avoided.

Artifacts may arise due to—

• Low volume due to loss of semen due to spillage

• Contaminants (e.g., dust, fluff, soap, spermicidal crystals)

• Temperature variations (e.g., sunlight exposure or cooling in the fridge)

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