How is Sperm Collected for IVF?

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Before IVF is considered for a couple, there needs to be a trend showing that the couple is struggling to conceive. Both a male or female partner can have problems with their reproductivity and when this happens it is recommended that they consult a doctor for some tests. Usually, a male or female is seen as infertile, or having problems with their fertility, when the couple has had regular unprotected intercourse for more than 12 months without conceiving.


What is IVF?

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is an artificial fertilisation process that usually happens outside the body where a female’s eggs are exposed to a male’s semen and sperm hoping for the insemination of some of the eggs. This is placed in an incubator and left for a few days to incubate, whereafter the the eggs will be inserted into the womb. Along with this, this complicated process usually includes medication to be taken by a female to stimulate their eggs.


Who is Legible for IVF?

Couples can consider IVF when they have been struggling to conceive for over a year. This includes couples that have undiagnosed infertility, couples of the same sex and even couples who have had their eggs or sperm frozen and decided to use it. For the process, not only do eggs have to be extracted from a female, but so do sperm have to be collected. The sperm can be collected in 2 ways; via a semen sample or via the insertion of a needle into the testicle to retrieve sperm.


Procedures to Collect Sperm for IVF

Collection Protocol for Semen / Sperm Sample

Fertility clinics implement specific guidelines for obtaining semen samples for IVF procedures. This includes abstaining from sexual activity or masturbation for 2-5 days, up to a maximum of 10 days, to optimize sperm count. Samples are collected via masturbation in a designated private room, avoiding the use of lubricants or saliva. Hands and the penis must be thoroughly cleaned before collection to maintain sample integrity.


Handling and Delivering Guidelines

Careful handling of the specimen is crucial to maintain sample quality. It's essential to avoid spillage or touching the inside of the collection container, as this may affect results. In case of spillage, it's advised not to transfer spilt samples back into the container. Prompt delivery to the laboratory is necessary, ensuring it's within an hour of collection and avoiding exposure to high temperatures, which can compromise sperm viability and the accuracy of results.


Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA) or Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE)

Sperm are harvested in the case where men present with azoospermia, which is the absence of sperm in the semen. This can be due to a blockage somewhere in the reproductive tract or due to other complicated reasons. Thus, these procedures are performed on men who still make sperm, but they have an obstruction preventing the sperm from getting where they are supposed to be. These procedures are usually performed on the same day that the eggs are retrieved.

TESA is the procedure that is used in men who are retrieving sperm for insemination via IVF or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This procedure is usually done in the doctor’s rooms by means of local anaesthetics and the use of a small needle to retrieve sperm.

TESE is a procedure that is done when the testes are cut open via a small incision to examine the tubules for any sperm and most of the time it is done under sedation in the operating room, but in some cases, it can be done with local anaesthetics. Men who collect their sperm via this process usually use it for cryopreservation for future IVF or ICSI.


Sperm for IUI

Intra-uterine insemination (IUI) is also a process used to overcome fertility problems. As IVF, IUI is also an artificial way to fertilise an egg. For this procedure, sperm also need to be collected by means of various procedures as mentioned previously. During IUI, sperm is placed directly into the uterus via a small catheter. This procedure eliminates possible fertile problems that men can experience like low motility of sperm. By placing the sperm directly into the uterus, there is a higher chance of conceiving.

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