Understanding sperm count

NOTE: See also the 37-page 2015 Choice Mom E-Guide: About Sperm. The guide includes a comparison chart of more than 10 banks, include their guaranteed motility counts (which vary based on whether a vial is used for IUI or IVF).

If you are purchasing frozen sperm, how can you be assured of getting the sperm count you need in post-thaw for the best chance at success? Sperm banks are not regulated, so no one but the bank itself is checking their quality control. Some women report that their doctor tests a sample of the sperm before insemination to be sure it has a good count. If the doctor’s testing methods are accurate, this can help. If it is not accurate (and some clinic technicians or tools are not), it doesn’t help.

What should the post-thaw count be?

I went to California Cryobank to ask what the needed count should be, why some vials might not have the required motility, how banks measure post-thaw motility, and what can be done when a particular vial doesn’t live up to standards, which can happen on occasion.

A. If anyone has a vial that doesn’t meet the standards promised, you should contact the sperm bank in question immediately and report the specimen evaluation results so they can be aware and can rectify.

B. Sperm motility is a key element in screening donors; very few potential donors qualify because their sample must meet a post-thaw standard set by each bank. Be sure to find out from any bank you use what their standards are, how they perform quality control for each donor sample, and what they do if a particular vial proves not to meet that standard.

C. For comparison with your own bank, if need be, here is how California Cryobank tests its post-thaw count:

  • The vial is thawed in a 37C water bath for 6-10 minutes.
  • The specimen is mixed by gently inverting and rolling the vial in the palms of the technician’s hands.
  • A count and motility are performed within 15 minutes of removing the post-thaw vial from the water bath. If the values do not correlate within 30% of the original pre-freeze counts, additional counts are performed until there is overwhelming evidence that values being reported are accurate.
    — The sample used in the count is about 1/1000th of the entire sample, and could in some cases not be representative of the entire sample. CCB always does a duplicate post-thaw count. If duplicate values do not correlate within 30% of each other, additional counts are performed until there is overwhelming evidence that values being reported are accurate.
  • The average post-thaw TOMO (Total Motility) is calculated.
    — Total Motile sperm/vial = (Average Count) x (Average Motility) x (Volume)
  • The TOMO must meet or exceed our published guarantee. CCB Guarantee (post thaw):
    — Premium Vials ICI — A minimum of 15 million motile sperm per vial
    — Premium Vials IUI — A minimum of 10 million motile sperm per vial
    — A.R.T. Vials ICI — A minimum of 8-14 million motile sperm per vial
    — A.R.T. Vials IUI — A minimum of 5-9 million motile sperm per vial
    — When comparing various banks, please note that some guarantees are measured per milliliter, while others (including CCB) measure per vial.
  • If the results of the vial do not allow them to be categorized as “Premium,” a secondary evaluation is made to determine whether they qualify for ART status or must simply be discarded.”

Follow this link to learn about sperm bank policies regarding refunds.

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