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Collecting a Semen Sample

It’s okay to feel a bit uncomfortable about collecting a semen sample for sperm analysis. By and large, men describe the experience as awkward and embarrassing. The conditions can be less than ideal: you’re performing “on demand,” most likely in an anonymous, sterile environment, with the clinic staff “knowing” that you’re doing something that’s normally private, and you’re handing it over once you’re done.

But perhaps knowing what’s involved will reduce some of your reticence. Just keep in mind that it’s science. And it’s something that the nurses and staff at your clinic see every day, multiple times a day, 365 days a year.

How to Prepare

  • As part of the fertility workup, you’ll make an appointment to either produce your sample in office or drop it off at the clinic or lab after you produce a sample at home. With sperm, timing is of the essence and you don’t have much “wiggle room” for time delays. Make sure you are on the same page with your clinic about the time of your appointment.
  • You’ll need to refrain from any sexual activity for at least two days, but not more than 10 days before you collect your sample. This means no sex or no ejaculation of any kind, including masturbation.
  • Longer or shorter periods of abstinence may result in a lower sperm count or decreased sperm motility. Samples produced after two days of abstinence will usually have the highest numbers of motile sperm with the greatest forward velocity, when compared to samples produced after shorter or longer abstinence.
  • Some men think saving up all their sperm for the day of their test is what’s preferable, but waiting too long between ejaculates is a big mistake: Older sperm begin to die if ejaculations are infrequent and the percentage of live sperm decreases with increasing abstinence. That’s right, a long period of sexual inactivity can result in less active sperm.
  • And you’ll want to clean up your act. No smoking, drinking or drugs during the 10 days preceding you sperm collection (of course, you may want to consider these lifestyle changes even further in advance). Specific things that could affect the quality of your sperm sample include:
    • Medicines, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), male and female hormones (testosterone, estrogen), sulfasalazine, nitrofurantoin, and some chemotherapy medicines.
    • Caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and tobacco.
    • Herbal medicines, such as St. John's wort and high doses of echinacea.

Collecting the Sample

Masturbation is, most likely, the way you’ll collect your semen specimen. If you have severe male infertility, resulting in few or no sperm in the ejaculate, you may require a surgical procedure such as microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration (MESA) or testicular sperm aspiration (TESA). Most doctors recommend you ejaculate directly into a provided sample cup and not use a condom. If you must use a condom, your lab will provide a special semen collection condom.

There are a few rules: First, take a shower and start out clean. Then, right before you get down to business, double check to make sure your hands and penis are clean. Wash them with soap and then rinse them with a lot of water.

You need to be a purist. You shouldn’t use any lubricant, including saliva. And, as mentioned, don’t collect your specimen in a condom (the spermicidal agents will alter the results of the analysis).

You will need to ejaculate directly into a sterile container provided by your clinic or lab. Avoid touching the inside of the cup and try to get the first part of your ejaculation as it is thought to be the most sperm-rich. If any semen spills, do not attempt to transfer it to your cup. Sorry, start again.

As soon as you’ve collected your sample, put the lid on your container. Make sure your name and the time and date of your sample is clearly printed on the cup.

Transporting Your Semen

If you collected your sample in a place other than your clinic, you need to get it to the laboratory within one hour after ejaculation because sperm do not have a long life outside of the body and at different temperatures. Delays in delivering semen and exposure to various temperatures will results in lower overall motile sperm count and poor semen cryopreservation.

Your semen sample shouldn’t be exposed to any extreme temperatures and, in fact, should be kept as close to body temperature as possible. The sperm motility value will be inaccurately low if the semen sample gets cold and or if it gets too hot.

Keep your specimen container upright in a plastic bag, with the lid securely tightened. The specimen should not be placed in your partner’s purse, or in your pocket or briefcase. Keep it as close to your body as possible, perhaps by tucking it under your clothing on the way to the clinic.


Most likely you will be in a room at your clinic provided for sample collection. Here’s a head’s up: Most of these rooms (sometimes, it’s the clinic bathroom) are pretty, well . . . uninspiring. Just know this in advance. And you may want to bring your own porn or Victoria’s Secret catalog. By many accounts, the selection is often outdated.


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Comments (18)

What is the cost on average for the test in an office? I don't want my employer to see it on my insurance?

I have an appointment to preserve my sperm tomorrow, I was staying abstinent for 4 days. But unfortunately while I was making out with a girl she did some over the pants stuff and I ejaculated. Should I still go to my appointment? This will be my 4th visit and I am having surgery on Monday for testicular cancer. They wanted me to store sperm before that.

Pls as a woman can I give my husband a head and help him collect in the bottle? He's doesn't masturbate. Pls I need a reply quick.


Semen samples must be collected in a sterile collection condom (or sterile cup in the instance of masturbation). You should not perform oral sex on your husband without the collection condom.

Good luck,

Please don't judge me for my religious beliefs, but for Catholics, it is against our religion to masturbate into a cup or condom. Would a sample be acceptable if it was ejaculated directly into the wife's vagina and then allowed to "drip" into a cup? I wonder if vaginal fluids would render the sample useless. A considerable amount of semen can leak from the vagina if desired. Sorry if this is a little explicit. Thank you for your respectful input.

Hi Jim,

Without getting into a religious debate, I do believe masturbation is now OK per the Catholic church. However, in regards to your question- you would have to use a collection condom, have intercourse with your wife, and transfer the sample to a collection cup. You can not collect a sample from the vagina to bring to the clinic. It needs to be a sterile collection.

Good luck!

Sorry for trying to make this clear Jim, are you saying Catholics are not allowed to masturbate? Glad to be an Orthodox....

Hi Jim,

If your religion prohibits masturbation, a sterile condom (provided by your doctor) can be used that does not affect the sperm quality. Please refer to your Urologist for more details on this method.


Please consult a Urologist for your questions.
Thank you,

what about the pro semen ,,is it included in the sample????

What if i can't do it myself to collect the there any way the nurses can help me to do it ?.

The only other way to collect sperm is through Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA). You can talk to your fertility doctor or urologist about that.

Good luck!

What percentage or chance is a 60 year old male capable of making a 50 year old women pregnant
my partner and I both enjoy having sex. She wants me NOT to use a condom because it gives her more pleasure and I would like to consider NOT using a condom also because it's more pleasurable. My concern is making her pregnant at age 50.
What concerns should I have


yes there is a home test its called spermcheck fertility test you can get it online or at walgreens and it costs about $45.00

I will be 50 in four months and I never had any children, nor to my knowledge been successful at impregnating. I'm highly sexual and must release at a bare minimum every two or three days (if not several times daily).

What must I do to find out if my inability is me or not? How much will it cost? And if I am fully capable, am I too old to donate?

Your attention is highly needed as I require answers desperately.

Thank You,

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