Collection of Semen

In order to obtain sperm of optimal quality, it is important that patients follow clinic instructions for semen collection. (Be aware that clinics may have different protocols for sperm collection for intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization.  Also, some programs may have men take an antibiotic prior to collection for IVF cases.) Common instructions follow:

  1. Do not have any sexual activity (ejaculation) for at least two days but not more than five days before obtaining the semen sample. 
  2. Semen should be collected in a sterile, nontoxic plastic jar provided by the laboratory.  Other containers are not acceptable.
  3. Most clinics prefer that the specimen be collected in the office, if possible. Private collection rooms are usually available.  Wash and dry your hands prior to collecting the specimen.  Some programs also recommended cleansing the penis followed with rinsing and drying to remove any soap or water.
  4. Your physician should be notified if there are any problems in collecting.  An alternative collection method could be provided, including the use of a special nontoxic condom for collection by sexual intercourse or the use of a vibrator. Commercial condoms cannot be used because they kill the sperm. 
  5. Lubricants should not be used unless directed by a physician. 
  6. Follow the clinic instructions for labeling and transporting the specimen.  It is critical to follow these instructions carefully.  Keep the jar closed tightly to prevent leakage. Let the lab know if any of the specimen was lost or spilled and  whether you have been taking any medications, including herbal remedies. 

Masturbation is the most frequent method used to produce a sperm sample on the day of oocyte retrieval. Occasionally, intercourse using a special condom or electroejaculation is required for successful collection. Some men are unable to ejaculate or have no sperm in their semen. In these special cases, urologists can often obtain usable sperm from the testicle or the epididymis utilizing a minor surgical procedure. 

Some physicians recommend that all men who are able to ejaculate and produce sperm preserve a semen sample by cryopreservation (freezing) several days prior to the day of egg retrieval. This frozen sample can be an important insurance policy if problems arise in the production or quality of the sample on the day of egg retrieval. These back-up sperm may be discarded if not needed on the day of retrieval unless otherwise specified. In addition, some physicians require that men take antibiotics prior to collection for IVF.

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National statistics from SART member clinics that reported their data through SART.