How to Collect Sperm for a Test

Alternative Methods for Those Facing Performance Anxiety

cup for a semen analysis
It's normal to have trouble ejaculating for a semen analysis. Khuong Hoang / Getty Images

Producing a semen sample for semen analysis or fertility treatment may lead to the inability to ejaculate. There are several factors involved with producing the sperm for a sample that may contribute to this type of performance anxiety.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome your stress and anxiety and still eject sperm for testing or treatment. Here is what you need to know about collecting a semen sample.

How Sperm Samples Are Collected

Often the semen sample must be produced in the fertility clinic, in a room set aside for this purpose. While a good clinic will do its best to provide a sense of privacy, it is still not your home. There may be some inspirational magazines provided, but it is far from romantic.

Plus, there's the anxiety of being evaluated and the worries about a treatment cycle working. Feelings of shame may arise, especially when a couple has been unable to get pregnant without assistance.

Many men, especially those who might masturbate less than the average male, find it uncomfortable to self-stimulate at a clinic. In these cases, the chances of being able to produce a sample for clinical purposes are subsequently lower.

How to Prepare to Provide a Sample

If your healthcare provider has asked you to provide a semen sample, they will likely give you a list of guidelines to follow prior to the collection. In order to get the most accurate results possible, it is important that you follow these instructions to the best of your ability.

For instance, they may ask to you avoid ejaculation for three to seven days prior to the test. This means abstaining from and masturbation. They also may ask you to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and drugs prior to the test. You also should talk to your provider about any supplements or medications you are taking.

Because the composition of your semen can vary significantly from day to day, your healthcare provider may collect two or three samples of semen for more accurate information and analysis. Try not to think about how many times you will have to visit the office to give a sample because this could just add to your stress and anxiety on the day of collection.

If your stress level is particularly high that day, you may want to try using relaxation techniques or mindfulness activities prior to the collection. Anything you can do to relax prior to giving your sample can help you manage your stress and get through the process.

Other Collection Options

Producing a semen sample at home may be much easier than doing so in a healthcare provider's office. Whether or not this is an option for you will depend on your provider's protocols, as well as your proximity to the clinic.

The clinic will need to provide a sterile cup ahead of time. A semen sample is still viable if it is brought to a lab within 45 minutes to an hour of being produced and kept at body temperature (for example, by transporting it tucked into a sports bra so that it is held securely close to the body).

If your clinic is far away, it might be possible to bring your sample to a lab that's closer to home. Or, for a longer treatment cycle, you may consider renting a room in a hotel nearby.

There are also tests you can perform at home, like SpermCheck, which can give you results regarding your sperm count in a matter of minutes. But these are generally for your information only.

If you are undergoing fertility testing or treatment and are struggling to produce a semen sample at a clinic, fortunately, there are options and other alternatives available to you.

Use an Approved Lubricant

Typically, you'll be asked to avoid all lubricants when producing a semen sample. This is because lubricants, even those that are not spermicidal, can damage or hinder sperm.

If you need lubricant, however, there is an option. Pre-Seed is a sperm-friendly lubricant approved for fertility purposes that has shown the best results for sperm vitality. It does not damage sperm and can be used for testing and treatment. (It can also be used during intercourse when you're trying to get pregnant.)

Your clinic may sell Pre-Seed, or you may find it in select pharmacies. (Try calling around first.) If not, you can also order it online. Be sure to place an order early enough so you'll get it before your testing or treatment appointment. Also, be sure to let your healthcare provider know if you plan to use a lubricant.

Use a Sex Toy

Another option is to use a sex toy or vibrator to help with stimulation. You may bring a battery-operated sex toy to the clinic, but consider practicing at home first if you have never tried this before. Just remember to abstain from ejaculating prior to your analysis.

Use a Collection Condom

One option that may actually produce a better semen sample than self-stimulation is using a specialized collection condom. Note that you can not use a regular condom, which can damage sperm even if it does not contain spermicide.

Condoms designed specifically for fertility testing and treatment allow the sperm to be collected via intercourse to maintain sperm viability and motility.

The semen is then taken from the collection condom, and prepared or analyzed in the clinic. Studies have shown that sperm counts collected in this way tend to be higher than when collected via self-stimulation.

In order to do this, you will either need to deliver your sample to your clinic or a nearby lab within one hour. These condoms may be purchased directly from your fertility clinic, or you can order them online ahead of time.

Note that lubricant is allowed, but only an approved fertility lubricant. Pre-Seed is safe to use with these specialized condoms. Also, you may want to purchase more than one, so you and your partner can practice before the big day.

Freeze a Sample

If you have any concern about being able to produce a semen sample on the day you need to for IVF or IUI treatment, talk to your fertility clinic and ask if you can produce a sample ahead of time. They can freeze it and use it as back-up, in case you can't produce a fresh semen sample.

Ideally, your clinic should offer you this option. But if it doesn't, do not be ashamed to ask. You're better off preparing a frozen sample and never needing it than not preparing one at all and losing a month's treatment due to performance anxiety.

For freezing, you need to have infectious disease blood test results (syphilis, HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B) on file within a year of specimen collection. Both the collection and bloodwork need to be planned in advance, so make sure to plan ahead. This is usually not something that can be arranged at the last minute.

Ask About Surgical Sperm Retrieval

If you cannot produce a semen sample via ejaculation, there is an alternative—surgical sperm retrieval. This is typically reserved for men who can't ejaculate for medical reasons, or for men whose semen has zero sperm count.

That said, surgical sperm retrieval can be used in cases of anxiety-related ejaculation difficulty as well. Your healthcare provider will administer local anesthetic and may also offer a sedative or light general anesthesia.

There are three kinds of sperm retrieval. These include percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA), needle aspiration biopsy (NAB), and testicular sperm extraction (TESE).

In cases of severe male infertility, ICSI-IVF, a procedure that injects the sperm cell directly into an egg, is the recommended form of treatment. This is different than an IVF, which leaves multiple sperm and an egg in a petri dish to fertilize on their own. It should be noted that ICSI-IVF comes with additional risks and costs.

A Word from Verywell

Difficulty ejaculating for fertility testing and treatment is not uncommon. There's no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. If you suspect that you are going struggle with ejaculation or you find out that you're experiencing trouble, talk to your healthcare provider—ideally before any scheduled treatments. They can help you find a solution.

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8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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