Getting Your Sperm Ready for Fertility Treatments
If done correctly, sperm preparation can improve sperm’s quality. To achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients choosing IUI procedures, our Andrology Lab provides several sperm preparation services. Each of these techniques address different problems with sperm quality.
Once a diagnostic analysis is complete, your doctor will determine the best sperm preparation technique for your unique situation.
Types of Sperm Preparation
This technique separates 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. 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 separation is one of the most common sperm preparations requested by doctors. 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 sperm with little or no motility.
This preparation also helps reduce or eliminate white blood cells and other debris. The procedure takes about one hour. Sometimes doctors can’t use this technique if the ejaculate volume, sperm count, and/or motility is too low. In these cases, your fertility doctor may use other techniques, like sperm incubation.
The refrigeration/heparin incubation technique can enhance sperm’s ability to penetrate (or get inside) an egg. 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 improve the sperm’s penetration capacity, which increases its ability to fertilize eggs. Patients who have a decreased sperm penetration rate may benefit from this type of sperm preparation. Doctors can see if you have a decreased sperm penetration rate by performing a sperm penetration assay diagnostic test.
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.