An antisperm antibody test looks for special proteins (antibodies)
that fight against a man's sperm in blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. The test
uses a sample of sperm and adds a substance that binds only to affected
Semen can cause an
immune system response in either the man's or woman's
body. The antibodies can damage or kill sperm. If a high number of sperm
antibodies come into contact with a man's sperm, it may be hard for the sperm
to fertilize an egg. The couple has a hard time becoming pregnant. This is
called immunologic infertility.
A man can
make sperm antibodies when his sperm come into contact with his immune system.
This can happen when the
testicles are injured or after surgeries (such as a
vasectomy) or after a
prostate gland infection. The testicles normally keep
the sperm away from the rest of the body and the immune system.
woman can have an
allergic reaction to her partner's semen and make
sperm antibodies. This kind of immune response is not fully understood but may
affect fertility. This is a rare cause of
Why It Is Done
The antisperm antibody test may be done
A cause for infertility cannot be found.
Experts disagree about the usefulness of the test because the result may not
change the treatment.
The results from another fertility test are not clear.
How To Prepare
Talk to your doctor about any concerns
you have regarding 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, a
blood sample is taken from a vein in the arm.
For men, a
semen sample is collected after the blood and vaginal fluid samples are 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
How It Is Done
Blood sample from the woman
professional taking a sample of your blood will:
Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to
stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is
easier to put a needle into the vein.
Clean the needle site with
Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick
may be needed.
Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with
Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is
Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as
the needle is removed.
Put pressure on the site and then put on a
A semen sample is collected by
masturbation. You should urinate and then wash and rinse your hands and penis
before collecting the semen in a sterile cup. You cannot use lubricants or
condoms when collecting 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. The sample cannot be collected by
having sexual intercourse and then withdrawing when you ejaculate, because
vaginal fluid may be mixed with the sperm.
How It Feels
The blood sample is taken from a vein
in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel
tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick
sting or pinch.
Collecting a semen sample does not
cause any discomfort. If masturbation is against your religious beliefs, talk
with your doctor.
There is very little chance of a
problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.
You may get a small bruise at the site. You
can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several
In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood
sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used
several times a day to treat this.
Ongoing bleeding can be a
problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and
other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have
bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell
your doctor before your blood sample is taken.
Usually there are no problems from
collecting a semen sample.
An antisperm antibody test looks for
special proteins (antibodies) that fight against a man's
sperm in blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. The higher the level of
antibody-affected sperm found in the semen, the lower the chance of the sperm
fertilizing an egg.
What Affects the Test
Collecting a semen sample within
48 hours of ejaculating or after not ejaculating for longer than 5 days may
affect the results of this test.
What To Think About
Experts disagree about the usefulness of the
test because the result may not change the treatment. Most people who have
infertility problems because of sperm antibodies choose
assisted reproductive technology to become pregnant.
To learn more, see the topic
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.