Washing the Specimen

Once a semen sample is obtained from your partner, it will likely undergo a form of sperm washing in addition to sperm count and motility testing. Sperm washing is designed to remove the impurities such as dead sperm and other unnecessary cells from the seminal fluid. This is all in an attempt to increase your chances for pregnancy.

The procedure that is used will depend on the facility that you have chosen and perhaps medical factors in your case. Timing may also influence the decision to choose one method over another. Depending upon which method of sperm washing is chosen it can take from 1–3 hours to complete.

Sometimes a centrifuge is used to wash sperm. A centrifuge spins the semen sample, which is mixed with a nutrient medium to aid in the washing process to separate the heavier and lighter fluids. The heavier layer at the bottom will contain the sperm-rich portion, which is removed from the centrifuge. The process is repeated several times to ensure that you are taking only the highest-quality sperm.

It is now believed that by using sperm-washing techniques that we can allow men who are HIV positive to father healthy children. Since the HIV virus is found in the semen and not the individual sperm, it should be possible to use the sperm and not the semen to impregnate his partner without the risk of passing along HIV. This is used in conjunction with insemination or IVF procedures.

The sperm swim up technique is another technique used in sperm washing. Your partner's semen sample is layered with a washing medium on top. The best, most motile sperm will swim up to the top layer. This layer is then removed to be used for the insemination.

Which form of washing or what procedures are done after the collection take place will depend on your fertility clinic. Be sure to ask if you have any questions or concerns before you begin treatment. You may also wind up doing several cycles, no two of which are alike.

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