Advanced Male Fertility Tests - Sperm Penetration Tests

Sperm penetration tests are an advanced male fertility test that can help to diagnose conditions resulting in male fertility problems. Unlike a semen analysis test, which assesses sperm production and sperm maturation, sperm penetration tests evaluate sperm performance and as such represent an important diagnostic tool in assessing male fertility.

Types of Sperm Penetration Tests

There are two tests that compose sperm penetration testing: sperm mucus penetration test and sperm penetration assay. These tests analyze sperm capability with regard to their ability to swim through the mucus and penetrate the cervical mucus and therefore are important to evaluating male reproductive health.

A sperm mucus penetration test and a sperm penetration test are performed in cases where other tests cannot identify the cause of infertility, and are often performed as a follow-up to semen analysis tests. They also usually precede in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in order to assess sperm ability. As such, these male infertility tests are central in the diagnosis and treatment of male fertility problems.

Sperm Penetration Test Procedures

Sperm Mucus Test
This sperm penetration test is performed on both men and women. The female component of this fertility test is based on the menstrual cycle, which is monitored in order to assess for high levels of luteinizing hormones (LH), which signal the onset of ovulation. As such, a fertility specialist must carefully monitor the timing of a sperm mucus test. Once ovulation is detected, a sample of the cervical mucus is collected.

The male component of this fertility test involves the collection of a semen sample on the same day when the cervical mucus sample is collected. The sample is then introduced to the cervical mucus and left for 90 minutes, after which it is analyzed for sperm motility (how far the semen was able to travel through the cervical mucus).

In the case that irregularities are found, the test is repeated with male donor sperm and the woman’s cervical mucus; it is also repeated with donor cervical mucus and the man’s sperm. In this manner, a fertility specialist can determine whether a male or fertility problem or both is the underlying cause of infertility. Clumping is indicative of antisperm antibodies.

Sperm Penetration Assay
In this male fertility test, the semen sample is combined with hamster eggs, which are similar in structure to human eggs, and then process and refrigerated for a period of three days. During this time, sperm undergo capacitation, a process that enables sperm to penetrate the eggs. The combined samples are then allowed to incubate for three hours, after which the eggs are removed. At this point, the sample will be analyzed in order to determine the number of eggs the sperm have penetrated, as well as the number of sperm that penetrate the eggs.

A man is considered to be fertile if 6 to 20 sperm have penetrated all the eggs; the less eggs that have been fertilized and the fewer sperm involved in this process, the greater the fertility problems.

Sperm Penetration Test Results

Sperm penetration testing can be a helpful precursor for in vitro fertilisation (IVF), and in particular, cases in which sperm abnormalities have been identified. Also, these male infertility tests can also be helpful to intractyoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

If no abnormalities with regard to female fertility have been identified, donor sperm can be used for intrauterine insemination (IUI).