Importance of Sperm Preparation to IVF Success
Perhaps couples have tried timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination, IUI, to overcome their struggles with infertility. While these techniques work for many people, others may have to turn to assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF.
IVF allows couples to overcome a wide range of female and male infertility issues. During the IVF process, eggs are retrieved usually on the same day that the sperm is prepared. Later that day, the eggs and sperm are placed in culture medium. In this environment, the sperm doesn’t have swim as far to reach the egg as it would through unassisted fertilization. This makes the process of fertilization much easier, and is just one of the many reasons why IVF is so successful at helping patients get pregnant.
Before a man’s sperm can be used for IVF, it must first be prepared. The sperm preparation process begins with an analysis of a semen sample (the fluid and sperm from the ejaculate). During the semen analysis, an andrologist will determine the sample’s sperm count. The andrologist also will look at sperm motility and morphology to determine the percent of moving sperm and percent of sperm with a normal shape.
The semen analysis then helps the embryologist determine which procedure will isolate the best population of sperm to fertilize the eggs. The ultimate goal is to select the population of sperm that is most likely to result in successful insemination.
After the semen analysis, the sperm preparation process still involves several steps.
• The semen is filtered by being placed in a column in a centrifuge tube. The filtration process isolates the sperm with the best motility and morphology. Basically, the process separates out the sperm that are most likely to fertilize an egg.
• After filtration, the isolated sperm is washed and placed into a solution that is similar to the fluid found in a woman’s fallopian tubes.
• The sperm is counted again to determine the concentration of sperm that will optimize the likelihood of fertilization. This concentration of sperm is then added to the culture medium, which contains one or two eggs.
The embryologist will check the culture medium the next morning to assess the growth of any resulting embryos. The embryologist will transfer the fertilized embryos into a new culture medium that is designed to support the growth of multi-cellular embryos.
Curious to learn more about IVF or any other assisted reproductive technology? Please contact an Ovation Fertility partner physician today.