What is considered normal semen?

Many men worry about the health of their sperm, especially if they are trying to conceive. Factors that determine whether a man's semen is normal include color, consistency, odor, volume, sperm concentration, and percentage of abnormalities. Normal semen should have a thick, cloudy consistency that thins and clears within half an hour, and may even have a slight chlorine odor. At least 50% of the sperm must have normal motility and morphology.

Normal semen is usually white or gray at first. Typically it will thicken, then liquefy and turn clear. This change usually occurs within half an hour. If the semen remains thick, there may be a problem with dehydration, but this problem usually goes away on its own. If it doesn't return to normal after a few weeks, there may be a more serious problem. Also, semen that is tinged red or yellow is normal, but if the discoloration is pronounced and followed by an unpleasant odor, there may be an infection or, rarely, cancer.

The amount ejaculated should be between 1.5 ml and 6 ml with between 20 and 150 million sperm. A consistently low semen volume can indicate other health problems, such as diabetes, prostate infection, or something blocking the seminal vessel. Typically, men over the age of 40 will have semen volumes on the lower end of the scale.

Motility and morphology are particularly important factors in determining normal semen for fertility. The percentages that scientists typically look for vary, but on average, at least a total of 50% of the sperm should have normal motility and morphology. However, it is not unusual for a man to have normal semen, but to have a little over 30% of sperm with normal morphology. The best way to determine if a man falls within this range is through semen analysis.

If a man suspects that he may have abnormal semen, he may want to undergo a semen analysis. Most labs require that a man refrain from ejaculation for two to five days, and for the most accurate results, semen is analyzed within one to two hours. On some occasions, a lab may even request that the test be repeated one or two more times within a three-month period. They usually only assess normal motility and morphology, and although this is an important factor in determining normal semen, it is not always indicative of fertility.

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