Home > Health Library > Sperm Penetration Tests
Sperm penetration tests check to see if a man's sperm can move
through cervical mucus and the
fallopian tubes to join with (fertilize) an egg. This
test is usually done when a couple is having trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
There are different sperm
Sperm penetration tests may be
Talk to your doctor about any concerns
you have about the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or
what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test,
fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
For women, this test
must be done during
ovulation. Follow your doctor's instructions for
checking the level of
luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. When you check
your LH level, do the urine test in the mid- to late morning. Do not drink
any fluids that morning until you have done the test. If your test shows that
you are ovulating, call for a doctor's visit for the next day.
men, the semen sample is collected after the cervical mucus sample is taken.
You should not release your sperm (ejaculate) for 2 days before the test. It is
important to not go longer than 5 days before the test without
The SPA only requires a semen sample to be taken.
men, it is important that you do not release your sperm (ejaculate) for 2 days
before the test. But do not go longer than 5 days before the test without
For the sperm mucus
penetration test, samples of the woman's cervical mucus and the man's semen will
be collected. In the lab, the semen is added to the mucus in a tube. After 90
minutes, the distance the sperm have moved is measured.
For the woman: a sample
of cervical mucus is collected from the woman during a pelvic exam. To learn more, see the topic
For the man: a semen sample is
collected by masturbation. First, you should urinate and then wash and rinse
your hands and penis before you collect the semen in a sterile cup. Do not
use lubricants or condoms when you collect the sample. If you collect the semen
sample at home, be sure to get it to the lab or clinic within 1 hour. Keep the
sample at body temperature and out of direct sunlight. Do not collect the sample by having sex and then withdrawing when you ejaculate, because vaginal
fluid may be mixed with the sperm.
For the SPA, a semen sample is collected. The sperm are mixed with hamster eggs in a
laboratory. The number of sperm that can penetrate an egg is measured.
For the man: a semen sample is collected by masturbation. First, you should urinate
and then wash and rinse your hands and penis before you collect the semen in a
sterile cup. Do not use lubricants or condoms when you collect the sample.
If you collect the semen sample at home, be sure to get it to the lab or clinic
within 1 hour. Keep the sample at body temperature and out of direct sunlight.
Do not collect the sample by having sex and then withdrawing when you ejaculate, because vaginal
fluid may be mixed with the sperm.
For the woman: you may feel some pressure
or slight pain when the speculum is put into your vagina. The plastic or metal speculum
spreads apart the vaginal walls. This allows your doctor to look at the inside of
the vagina and the cervix. The speculum may be
warmed with water or lubricated with a vaginal lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly).
Try to relax your legs and hips as much as you can.
For the man: collecting a semen sample does not
cause any discomfort. But you may feel embarrassed about the method used to
collect it. If masturbation is against your religious beliefs, talk with your
There is very little chance of a problem from collecting a sample of vaginal fluid or from collecting a
Sperm penetration tests check to see
if a man's sperm can move through cervical mucus and the
fallopian tubes to join with (fertilize) an
A controlled test can
see if the cervical mucus is preventing sperm penetration. This test uses donor
sperm and the male partner's sperm. Both sperm samples are added to a sample of
the woman's cervical mucus. Donor cervical mucus may also be used with the
woman's cervical mucus.
There may be a problem with the partner's sperm if:
There may be a problem with the woman's mucus if
neither the partner's nor the donor's sperm penetrate the cervical
Sperm penetrate the cervical mucus and move
through it easily.
Sperm can't penetrate the cervical mucus, or
they clump together in the mucus. Clumping may mean that the woman or man has
antibodies against the sperm. If the sperm antibodies
are from the man's body, clumping may also be seen in his semen
Results are based on
the number of sperm that can penetrate an egg. This can vary from lab to lab.
Talk with your doctor to find out if your results are normal.
Sperm penetrate the hamster
Sperm can't penetrate the hamster
You may not be able to
have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if:
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Other Works Consulted
Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Male infertility. In
Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th
ed., pp. 1249–1292. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Lobo RA (2012). Infertility: Etiology, diagnostic evaluation, management, prognosis. In GM Lentz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 6th ed., pp. 869–895. Philadelphia: Mosby.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerFemi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofFebruary 5, 2015
Current as of:
February 5, 2015
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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