What Is The Sperm Water Test?
The sperm water test is a simple and easy way to check the functional integrity of the sperm’s membrane at home using only some distilled water and a container. It works in a similar manner to a test used by doctors called the hypoosmotic swelling (HOS) test. In fact, the home water test may actually be more effective.
For example, one study found that the water test may be more useful for assessing the integrity of the sperm membrane than the standard HOS test. However, the relationship between this test and fertility, as well as other sperm parameters, needs additional research.(1)
How Does It Work?
The water test works due to the the hypo-osmotic properties of sperm, which can be observed when placed in the distilled water. This hypo-osmotic characteristic is the sperm’s ability to absorb water.
Because sperm cells contain a greater concentration of salts than the water does, they have a tendency to expand and swell when exposed to water, especially in the tail. The hypo-osmostic swelling effect only occurs across an intact cell membrane under hypoosmotic conditions until equilibrium is reached.(2)
In theory, sperm cells that are either dead or immotile are unable to absorb water and expand, and thus do not exhibit any change in the water. While not a substitute for a full semen analysis, or even a good at-home sperm test kit, the water test can still be a quick and easy way to assess the general condition of sperm.
Steps For Performing The Water Test
1. Fill A Container With Water
You will need a clear cup or other container with an open top into which the semen will be placed. You should fill the container with clean distilled water that is slightly warm or at room temperature – not too hot or cold.
The water should be clean and not contain any dirt, additives, or other substances. Many men prefer using a bathroom sink for this test because it’s easier to clean and rinse out afterwards, although it’s not possible to get a side view with this method.
2. Take A Sample Of Your Semen
Next, you need to obtain a sample of semen. This can be done by masturbating and ejaculating into the container of water.
However, for those men who are not able to masturbate (due to religious reasons, for example), it’s also possible to obtain a viable sample by having intercourse using a condom. Avoid using condoms containing spermicidal agents as this will kill sperm cells and contaminate the sample, potentially skewing your results.
To get the best sample, try abstaining from all sexual activity for at least three to five days prior to performing the water test. Regardless of the method used to collect the sample, it must be obtained right before testing, which should be performed immediately afterward.
3. Add the Semen Sample Into the Water
Next, carefully introduce the sample of semen into the container of water that was prepared previously.
4. Observe How the Semen Responds
The next part of the process is the observation phase. It may take some time to observe how the semen reacts once placed in the water. Some semen samples will almost immediately begin to sink to the bottom of the container.
Others may stay near the water’s surface for a while, then gradually begin to sink to the container’s bottom. And still other samples will remain near the water’s surface for as long you observe.
Interpreting the Results
This water sperm test can produce one of three results:
- Semen Sinks Immediately – It is possible that the semen sinks to the container’s bottom immediately after being introduced. This result could possibly indicate a low sperm count, due to a lack of active sperm cells that swell and float near the surface. Additionally, semen has a higher specific gravity than water does. Therefore, a semen sample that sinks immediately could have a higher ratio of seminal fluids to sperm cells.
- Semen Gradually Sinks – It is possible that the semen takes a few minutes before eventually sinking to the bottom. This would be interpreted as a slight variation of the first result. In this case it could also indicate a low number of sperm, but not as low as the first result because it took some time for the sample to sink to the bottom.
- Semen Does Not Sink – When the semen does not sink to the bottom of the water after several minutes, it indicates that there are a high concentration of sperm cells with healthy membrane integrity. This suggests that the sperm cells are living and have active membranes, which swell and allow them to remain floating.
Regardless of what the results are, it’s recommended to perform another test after 90 days to verify that the same results are observed. No matter what the results of either test reveals, it is important to note that this method is not a substitute for a semen analysis.
A far better way to analyze your sperm at home is to use a home test kit, such as the Yo at-home sperm test.
However, for a more thorough and accurate assessment of your sperm count and quality, see a doctor. They can provide a more detailed analysis and make recommendations about how best to proceed.
Jacob Rastani is the editor in chief of The Sperm Count Report, and is in charge of reviewing all editorial content for the website, social media, and video platforms. He has over 12 years experience as a senior editor national news websites, where he oversaw production of content relating to health and fitness, medical news, medicine, and fertility and reproductive health.