What is it?
The male reproductive gamete sperm or ‘spermatozoa’, consists of a fluid
mixture of water, plasma and mucus released upon male ejaculation. An
essential ingredient for biological reproduction, sperm is created and stored in
the testicles. The integrity of sperm DNA is essential for healthy embryo
development so semen evaluation is crucial before embarking on a fertility
journey of any kind.
When analyzing the quality of ejaculate, experts are looking at two main factors:
production and delivery. Common issues affecting sperm viability include: halted
development, limited quantity, irregular formation, or absence altogether
(azoospermia). Although not as dramatically, sperm can decrease and decline
due to age, lifestyle choices, medication, and diet similar to oocytes (eggs) from
the female reproductive side.
Today, thanks to ART (assisted reproductive technology) prospective parents
have the option of a genetic link with their child not offered through parentage
via adoption. A typical gestational carrier will have no genetic link to the foetus
she is carrying; gametes typically are derived by intended parents or with the
help of an egg or sperm donor.
Preparing for sperm deposit
Prior to leaving a sample for your sperm analysis, your surrogacy coordinator
should provide you with some helpful instructions to boost your chances for a
healthy and successful deposit.
The ‘abstinence period’ is a suggested timeframe in which ejaculation should be
avoided prior to sample-leaving. This means refraining from any sexual activity
(no ejaculation of any kind including masturbation) for at least two days, but not
more than five to seven days before your sample is collected. Abstaining for a
longer or shorter period can result in decreased sperm motility and lower
quantity. Samples gathered after two days of abstinence usually have the highest
numbers of motile sperm.
Saving up as much sperm as possible for the big day might seem like a good idea,
but waiting too long for ejaculation can actually hinder success. Older sperm
begins to die if ejaculation is too infrequent, decreasing the percentage of live
sperm. A significant impact has been noted on the quality (shape and movement)
of sperm after 7 days of abstinence.
Smoking, alcohol, caffeine and narcotics, should be avoided at least 10 days prior
to leaving your sperm sample. Hot tub bathing, saunas and excessive sun should
also be avoided. For now, while studies are unclear, it’s also a good idea to notify
your coordinator if you have been infected by Covid 19 within 3 months of your
Specific ingestables that could affect the quality of your sperm sample include
medication such as:
• Cimetidine (Tagamet)
• Male and female hormones (Testosterone, Estrogen)
• Anabolic steroids
• Certain chemotherapy medication
• Herbal medicines (St. John’s Wort and high doses of Echinacea
Do’s and Don’ts
Show up freshly showered, ensuring hands and penis are clean.
Keep it simple
No lubricant, including saliva, should be used, unless requested and provided by
your IVF clinic.
Sterile and Sanitary
Most clinics will insist you leave your deposit alone. As helpful as it might be to
have your partner with you, more is not merrier in this instance as contamination
Ejaculation should be directed only into the sterile cup provided to you and not a
condom or any other vessel. Touching the inside of the container should be
avoided; try your best to ensure the first fluid expressed from your ejaculation
makes it into the cup, as it this is the most sperm-rich. Semen spillage might
happen but no need to scoop it up and add it to your cup as purity is more
important than amount.
Seal it up
Once your sample has been collected, seal your cup lid and ensure your name
and the date of your sample is correctly recorded on your vessel.
Don’t stress and take your time
It is completely normal to feel awkward when leaving a sperm deposit for the
Normally private, ejaculating under sterile and controlled conditions, while being
acutely aware of the clock ticking and the medical team right outside the door
can be stressful and impede successful collection.
It’s important to remember that this is a clinical procedure – no different to a pap
smear or prostate check. Your personal coordinator and clinic staff are objective
professionals, have handled thousands of sperm analyses before you and have
got this down to a science.
Fresh VS. Frozen
Studies show no difference in implantation and pregnancy rates between fresh
and frozen sperm (unlike oocytes); both are as effective for ICSI. Opting for a
frozen sample brings ease to family building and the opportunity for single
women and same-sex couples to build their family at a more convenient time.