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Sperm Washing and Preparation Techniques for Artificial Insemination and IVF
Sperm washing is a form of sperm preparation that is required prior to intrauterine insemination or IVF because it removes chemicals from the semen, which may cause adverse reactions in the uterus. During the sperm washing process sperm is separated from the seminal fluid. This procedure enhances the fertilizing capacity of the sperm and is thus recommended in cases with immune system disorders, male-factor or unexplained infertility.
IMPORTANT: Sexual abstinence for at least 2 days, but not more than 5 days, is recommended prior to collecting semen. Specimens can be collected at our facility or at home, provided that it does not take more than 1 hour to bring the sample to our facility. Specimen should be collected in sterile wide-mouth containers via dry masturbation (no lubricants). Containers are available at our laboratory and can be found at drug stores with the name urine specimen cups. Once the sample has been collected, the container must be kept upright with the lid tightly secured. If you produce the specimen at home, you need to keep the specimen at body temperature. We recommend placing the container in an inner pocket during cold weather. Allergies to antibiotics should be reported prior to sperm washing.
Sperm washing involves removing the seminal plasma and any cryoprotectant, if used, from the specimen prior to intrauterine insemination.
The Fertility Center of California, Sperm Bank Inc., offers 3 sperm washing techniques:
- Basic Sperm Wash
- Premium Wash
- Swim-up Technique
Sperm washing can be performed on a single specimen prior to initiating intrauterine insemination therapy. A trial wash helps determine the sperm washing technique that will yield the best results.
This technique uses dilution and centrifugation. A sperm wash solution containing antibiotics and protein supplements is added to the ejaculate. After repeated centrifugation, the seminal fluid is eliminated from the sample and the sperm cells are concentrated for insemination. This procedure takes 20 to 40 minutes.
This method uses density gradient centrifugation to isolate and purify the motile sperm in order to obtain a sperm sample with a motility of at least 90%, depending on the initial quality of the sample. Different concentrations of isolate (extremely dense fluid) are layered in a test tube in an ascending order of density (heaviest layer at the bottom). When a semen sample is placed upon the upper-most isolate layer and centrifuged, any debris, round cells, non-motile and poor quality sperm remain in the top layers. Only the motile sperm are able to get through to the bottom layer and are then concentrated for use in artificial insemination. This procedure takes 1 hour. The premium sperm wash technique is excellent for fresh or frozen sperm and can help assess male factor fertility.
This technique uses sperm self-migration to obtain a sperm sample with a motility of at least 90%, depending on the initial quality of the sample. A layer of fresh media is gently added to the semen sample in such a way that most of the motile sperm will swim out of the sample and upward into the added media. These harvested motile sperm are subsequently used for insemination. This procedure takes 2 hours. Oligozoospermic men (men with low sperm counts), men with poorly motile sperm as well as men with male-factor infertility are not suitable candidates for this technique. Their sperm will have difficulty swimming up out of the pellet into the nutrient medium.
A washed specimen can be safely stored for a couple of hours prior to insemination. The Fertility Center of California, Sperm Bank Inc., offers a service which keeps the washed specimen safe in a special medium for up to 6 hours in cases where the artificial insemination procedure is delayed.
|Premium / Gradient Wash||
|Mini Premium / Gradient Wash||
|Gender Pre-Selection (includes sperm wash)||