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Considering Donor Sperm

What Happens Next?

The ASRM recommends that healthcare providers use only frozen semen and that the specimen be frozen and stored for at least 180 days. The ASRM also advises that the donor have an initial HIV blood test prior to donating sperm and then be retested before the frozen specimen is used.
 
Most sperm banks offer two types of samples: intracervical insemination samples (ICI) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) samples. ICI samples are prepared for intracervical inseminations only and must be "washed" if used for intrauterine inseminations.
 
The majority of reproductive endocrinologists perform IUIs. The IUI samples are prewashed for intrauterine insemination. "Washing" is a process in which the motile sperm are separated from the man's ejaculate and concentrated into a small volume. Washing the sperm also cleans the specimen of potential toxins that may cause problems in the uterus. It also concentrates the sperm and removes the seminal fluid, which can cause severe cramping in the woman. The process of washing the sperm can take up to two hours to complete.
 
Both ICI and IUI semen samples should be frozen and quarantined for a minimum of 180 days. These samples should not be released until the donor is retested for communicable diseases and the results are negative.
 
The donor insemination process consists of inseminating the woman as close to the time of ovulation as possible. In some cases, women may monitor their ovulatory cycles by testing their urine for an LH (luteinizing hormone) surge, which indicates that ovulation will take place shortly. In most cases, inseminations will be done about 24 hours after an LH surge is detected using a urine test. Depending on the clinic you are using, you may have one or two inseminations per cycle.
 
The insemination procedure is fairly simple and is usually performed in your healthcare provider's office. You will lie on the examination table, in a similar way as you would if you were going in for a pelvic examination. The healthcare provider will place a speculum into the vagina to help see the cervix. The donor sperm sample is drawn up into an insemination catheter and attached to a syringe.
 
The ICI samples are designed for use in cervical inseminations. During this simple procedure, a soft catheter is passed through the speculum to the cervical opening. The semen is released from the catheter, and a small, plastic-covered sponge with a string attached may be inserted to help keep the semen as close to the cervix as possible. You can remove the sponge after two to three hours.
 
IUI semen samples are used for intrauterine insemination, which can increase the success rates by allowing a higher concentration of sperm to reach the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes (where fertilization occurs). In some cases, the sperm bank will process the sperm for intrauterine insemination prior to shipping. However, if the sperm has not been processed, the specimen will be thawed and then processed to remove the seminal plasma from around the sperm cells. If this is not done, it would cause uterine cramping and a possible allergic response.
 
After the sperm has been processed, it will be injected using a syringe and a thin catheter, which is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. Although this process is not usually painful, it can cause cramping in some women.
 
(Click What's Involved With an IUI? for more details on intrauterine insemination, including medications that may be used to help increase your chances of pregnancy.)
 
Donor sperm may also be used in women who are undergoing in vitro fertilization (see The Ins and Outs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)).
 
When going through the IUI or IVF process with donor sperm, it can be helpful to have your partner there with you. This can provide you with a source of support, in that you both made a mutual decision and are beginning the process together.
 
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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