Sperm preparation, if done correctly, can improve sperm quality. To achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients choosing IUI procedures, the andrology lab provides several sperm preparation services. Each of these techniques address different sperm quality problems. Once a diagnostic analysis is complete, your physician will determine the best sperm preparation for your unique situation.

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Types of Sperm Preparation

Sperm Washing

This technique removes the sperm from the semen and places it in an artificial fluid that can improve sperm motility, longevity, and ability to penetrate the egg. This procedure takes about 20 minutes after the semen is liquefied. Washing is the most helpful process to handle fragile sperm, such as frozen-thawed (cryopreserved) sperm and samples with antibodies (anti-sperm antibody testing).

Density Gradient

Density gradient separation is one of the most common sperm preparations requested by physicians. Sperm are separated by putting the sample through two different concentrations of a colloidal solution. This concentrates the sperm with the best motility and separates them from those with little or no motility.

This preparation also helps reduce or eliminate white blood cells and other debris. The procedure takes about one hour to complete. Occasionally, this technique cannot be used because of the ejaculate volume, sperm count, and/or motility being too low. In these cases other techniques, such as sperm incubation, may be used.

Refrigeration/Heparin Incubation

The refrigeration/heparin incubation technique can enhance sperm penetration. This is recommended for patients who have a capacitation or acrosome reaction defect. This technique involves collecting two sperm samples about 24 hours apart. The first sample is refrigerated in a capacitation-stimulating medium; the second sample is incubated with the chemical heparin.

Both of these treatments help to improve the sperm’s penetration capacity, which increases its ability to fertilize. Patients who have a decreased sperm penetration rate (which can be discovered from the sperm penetration assay diagnostic test) may benefit from this type of sperm preparation.

Sperm Incubation

The sperm incubation helps the motility of the sperm and the ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg. It also concentrates sperm and reduces prostaglandins in the seminal fluid, which may cause intrauterine cramping.