Semen Processing for artificial insemination like IUI

Intrauterine Insemination(IUI) is a simple infertility treatment performed on couples facing difficulties to conceive. IUI is a simple procedure where the washed sperm cells are directly placed into a woman’s uterus to improve the chances of fertilization. It is a simple and painless procedure that can be done without anaesthesia.

The sperm cells collected are examined for the most motile and healthy sperm to inject into the uterus. The goal of semen processing is to collect more motile sperm cells that can swim to reach the eggs and consequently improve the chances of fertilization. 

The semen processing involves three main steps: collecting, washing, and injecting the sperm sample directly into the uterus.

Collection of the Sperm Sample

Collecting the sperm sample is crucial; the male partner shouldn’t masturbate or participate in sexual intercourse for two to five days before collection. This helps to collect maximum sperm cells and ensures the health and mobility of sperm cells produced. 

The sample is collected in a sterile container with a wide mouth in a private room at the clinic. It is then allowed to liquefy for thirty minutes, and the processing is started. The whole process is ideally finished within ninety minutes after collection.

Washing The Sperm Sample

Sperm samples are washed before being processed for IUI. Sperm wash means removing extra fluid, eliminating dead & weak sperm, bacteria, trash, and prostaglandins that can lead to uterine cramps. In the process, the most motile and healthy sperms are separated eventually. This washed sperm is used in artificial insemination or can be stored (frozen) for future use. 

When sperm is collected for artificial insemination, such as IUI, the first step is to wash it. The process separates the sperm cells from the seminal fluid.

This process removes toxic wastes from the sperm sample and enhances the possibility of the sperm reaching the fallopian tubes for fertilization. It can also help couples experiencing unexplained infertility, male-factor infertility, or disorders in the immune system, preventing them from conceiving.

Techniques Used for Washing the Sperm

The technique starts from separating sperm cells from the seminal plasma and cryoprotectant, if used, before artificial insemination procedures like IUI or IVF. Below are the three common techniques used to wash the sperm sample.

Basic sperm wash

In the basic sperm wash process, the sperm sample is mixed with a solution of protein supplements and antibiotics and centrifuged repeatedly. Within 40 minutes, the seminal fluid automatically separates from the sperm cells.

Density gradient sperm wash

This is one of the popular techniques, which is also called premium sperm wash. In this method, the density gradient centrifugation principle is used to separate the motile sperm. The procedure can isolate the sperms with motility of at least 90%, based on the initial semen quality. 

Different concentrations of liquids of varying densities are layered in a test tube from top to bottom in ascending order of density. The semen sample is placed on the topmost layer and centrifuged. Here the top layer isolates wastage, dead cells, immotile and poor quality sperm. 

Only healthy and motile sperm can get through to the next layer, collected for artificial insemination. This procedure might take around one hour. The density gradient sperm wash technique is an excellent procedure for both fresh and frozen sperm.

Swim-up technique

This technique depends on the motility and strength of the sperm sample collected. A layer of culture medium is added to the sample in a test tube, where the motile sperm can only swim upward into the medium. These motile sperm are collected and used for insemination. 

The procedure takes around two hours. Men with certain fertility problems like oligozoospermia (low sperm counts), poorly motile sperm and male-factor infertility are not ideal candidates for the swim-up technique. This is because sperm might not be able to swim up into the nutrient medium.

The washed sperm can be stored for around two hours before insemination. In addition, our ZIVA Fertility Center of Hyderabad with Sperm Bank offers a special service to store the washed sample for up to 6 hours in a special medium in case artificial insemination is delayed. For more information, contact our fertility doctors.