Collecting a semen sample

Donating semen in a medical setting can seem like an embarrassing or uncomfortable idea. We hope that the information provided below is useful, and helps to hopefully relieve any anxiety.

Although masturbation is a perfectly normal bodily function, it can become awkward, embarrassing or anxiety-inducing when required to do it at a given time on a given date in an unfamiliar setting.

Our team are friendly, relaxed and experienced. They are used to seeing patients everyday and have experienced every problem

Sometimes our patients can feel anxious or embarrassed, and this can prevent them from providing a sample. Likewise, there are others who may have religious or cultural objection to masturbation. In either situation, there is help available. For example, the patient can attempt to collect a sample at home or even be provided with a non-spermicidal condom for collection during intercourse. Although we recognise that this can be quite a difficult situation, useful information can be gained from just one semen sample and quite often no further tests are required.  

All patients attending for diagnostic testing must:

  • Ensure they have been provided with a request card by either their GP or specialist at the fertility clinic. This should have their details (identity and address) and the name and address of the referring doctor.
  • Book an appointment. This is essential as some measures of sperm quality can worsen with time, so we need to schedule the appointment.*
  • Provide a complete sample. The first part of the sample contains most of the sperm, so if some is lost it may affect the overall test. Any suspicion that the sample is incomplete should be reported.
  • Abstain from any sexual activity ideally for 2-5 days beforehand (but it doesn’t need to be any longer than 7 days).
  • Practice good hygiene, like washing hands and genital area beforehand.
  • Deliver the sample in the container provided.
  • Label the sample container clearly with full name and date of birth.
  • Deliver the sample ideally within 45 minutes, and keep the sample close to the body if travelling in (as sperm are sensitive to extremes of temperature).

*Occasionally, the laboratory will close for training or meetings. We cannot be held responsible if a patient arrives without an appointment only to find that we are closed.

Collecting a sample if you have suspected retrograde ejaculation

When a sperm test shows that hardly any semen is produced, we may suspect a rare problem known as Retrograde Ejaculation. This is where, upon ejaculation, semen enters the bladder. This is caused by a weakness of the muscles around the neck of the bladder, and is more common in men with spinal injuries or illnesses such as diabetes.

To find out whether sperm have entered the bladder, we have to retrieve them from the urine immediately after masturbation. In this case, you should:

1. Empty your bladder.

2. Masturbate to orgasm and collect any fluid in the pot provided.

3. Collect your urine immediately after (when able) in the pot or pots provided.

4. Alternatively, you could try to masturbate with a full bladder, as this may prevent the sperm from escaping into the bladder.

Urine is a hostile environment for sperm, as the levels of acidity and salt concentrations can kill them within minutes. Therefore once RE has been diagnosed, you may be asked to provide a further specimen in order for us to determine whether we are able to retrieve live sperm. To do this, we alter the level of acidity and salt concentration by asking you to drink a bicarbonate and salt solution. Although not very pleasant, this helps us create balance and we can often rescue good quality sperm that can be either used in assisted conception or frozen for later use.