Washed or unwashed sperm

“Washed” means the sperm is separated from semen. Most experts recommend using washed sperm. Eric Kendall of Seattle Sperm Bank offered this explanation.

Sperm samples may be purchased as either “washed” or “unwashed.” These two types are commonly referred to by the acronym for the procedure they are most often used:

IUI vials (Intra-Uterine Insemination) = washed
ICI vials (Intra-Cervical Insemination) = unwashed

Sperm washing is a process that separates viable sperm cells from the seminal fluid. The purpose is to remove dead and slow moving sperm, white blood cells and prostaglandins. These naturally inherent characteristics of all menʼs semen may interfere with fertilization. They can also cause uncomfortable side effects such as pain, cramping, nausea and vomiting if placed directly into the uterus.

Although most women purchase IUI-washed donor sperm if they intend to undergo an IUI procedure, some fertility clinics prefer to perform their own washing process prior to insemination. In this case, your clinic might advise you to purchase an ICI-unwashed specimen, which they will wash to make IUI-ready. This is why you should always seek the advice of your medical provider for the preferred and recommended vial-type, given your situation.

ICI-unwashed vials are minimally processed. Other than the freezing procedure, the resulting specimen is very close to its natural state. Because ICI and Intra-Vaginal inseminations (IVI) do not involve the introduction of sperm and semen directly into the uterus, either IUI-washed or ICI-unwashed samples may be used but, again, always consult your medical advisor.


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