What is it like, giving a sperm sample during infertility treatments? The Modern Husband shares the male perspective.

The Modern Husband: My Experience Giving a Sperm Sample

In Fertility by The Modern Husband30 Comments

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Your wife asks you to write about jerking off. More specifically, about the experience of giving a sperm sample for her IUI. In any case, accommodating her request, much like providing semen for the IUI, is accompanied by quite a bit of awkwardness. You decide to write in the 2nd person to distance yourself a bit in order to be able to write honestly about this subject.

The day requires an early rise – you need to be at the clinic at 7am. Your wife accompanies you as a show of support; she’s sweet, you think, one of the reasons you love her. You take the subway together, ride up the elevator, and enter the clinic, the whole time looking around nervously to make sure you don’t know anyone. Your wife signs you in.

The clock is ticking. Wait. You need a plan for how to get the sperm into the bottle without missing. Why are there no instructions?
The receptionists are all female. The other patients waiting as well. You wonder if everyone knows why you’re there. Is there any other reason for a male to be there? And if so, do they think about it, imagining you masturbating? And if so, it seems to be acceptable in society that guys masturbate, so is it a big deal? You don’t think it is – despite a bit of discomfort, you’re open to writing about it on a blog that anyone has access to. But what if a woman came into an office to masturbate – how would that be perceived? You feel that would be different. A couple come in. Is he there for the same reason? He doesn’t seem to show discomfort. Do you?

They call your name. That is, your first name and only the first initial of your last name – privacy concerns. The young lady from the reception walks you to a small room, explains that there are containers inside, on one of which you should stick a stamp she hands you, with your name and some additional information. There are also small tubes of lubricants (should you need them). Don’t forget to lock the door. As you close the door while she leaves, you can’t help but think how many guys jerk off to fantasies of the receptionists, as they are the last person they see before their confinement, and then you wonder if the receptionists have those same exact thoughts. No, you conclude, they just don’t understand how our minds work. You lock the door.

A man shares his awkward and funny experience giving a sperm sample at the fertility clinic You turn around and take in your surroundings. A small room, with a big blue chair covered with disposable paper, to provide a sense of sanitation. You understand that you are expected to be sitting down. You see baskets with containers, and other baskets with magazines. To your right is a very small and very old television set, with both a VCR(!) and DVD, and some movies garnered to pique your interest lying on a shelf below. The room also contains some necessities for after the act: a garbage can, a sink with soap, and paper towels. There is also a box with blue gloves, which you understand are for the orderlies that clean after. Taking a closer look at the surroundings, you see blotches of dried up goo, and you make a mental note to make sure you stay away from them.

There is already a container waiting for your use on the chair. You tear open the bag, and think for a second that perhaps you should have left it closed until a later point to prevent infections, but realize that’s dumb. You need to get into the mood. You walk over to the magazines and begin flipping. Some of the stuff is pretty disgusting, but right now nothing much does anything for you. You land on a magazine on motor boats – you get how some guys could get off on that, but it’s not your thing. You flip through another magazine, understand that’s not working, and put it down. You sit on the chair.

The clock is ticking. You try forcing yourself to fantasize. How long is this supposed to take? Do most guys come out in 5 minutes, or do they get stuck here for hours? Do some fail to accomplish the mission? You’re thinking about the wrong stuff again. Maybe you should try the videos. You get up, look at a couple of boxes, realize there’s a disc inside the DVD player, and press play. Will there be sound … you’re horrified for a second … then think, will it do anything for you if there’s no sound? … but then realize nothing is happening. You tinker with the TV and the player a bit until you decide it’s not worth it. You sit back down on the chair.

The clock is ticking. You try forcing yourself to fantasize. What are people in the waiting room thinking? Do they realize how long you’re gone? Did the other guy go in after you and already come out? Your mind is wondering again. Focus. Maybe you can call your wife in? Wouldn’t it be more natural if couples did this together? That’s what making babies is supposed to be about – togetherness – right? And you could use her help…

The clock is ticking. Wait. You need a plan for how to get the sperm into the bottle without missing. Why are there no instructions? Is this some intuitive knowledge that every guy is supposed to know? Or have our sexual experiences prepared us for knowing the right procedure for when to grab the container and how to position it accordingly? Well, apparently not everyone knows, hence the goo you see in certain places. You feel you have a plan for yourself.

The clock is ticking. You start thinking of your wife. You imagine her joining you here. Somehow, that feels like an appropriate fantasy for this purpose. Is that weird? Is that “cute”? Whatever, it’s working. You flow with it. It’s working. It’s really working. You grab the container. Yes, you got it all in! You’re satisfied with your performance.

You make yourself presentable, make sure no evidence is left behind, and step out to the lab. You present them with the container. How much spillage? You throw out a number of 10%, sounds right. They’re happy with that number. You walk back out to the reception area, where your wife is reading a magazine. You look around, but nobody is staring at you. The other guy hasn’t come back out yet. Good, it’s not only you…

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  1. When I went through this I got no magazines, no movies. I’m not sure I even got a chair. If I hadn’t brought some reading material of my own I might still be in there… thirty years later…

  2. I went on my own and a sour face old receptionist shouted “sperm or urine” to the delight of the females in the room ..I was devastated …

  3. I recently had to get a semen analysis performed… twice. It was very awkward and difficult, but I got through it, and it all seems humorous to me now. I’m adding my experience to this helpful blog post in case it helps any other men who must go through this. (I hope my account is collapsed in this thread, if not, I’m sorry!)

    I went to the fertility clinic alone, though my wife offered to join me. Some men seem to be less nervous with their wives there, others feel more awkward. This is just a personal matter, in regards to what makes you more comfortable. (The clinic I went to does NOT allow anyone to come into the collection room with you.)

    I had a lot of the same thoughts in my head as were posted here. All the receptionists and nurses were young and attractive, and I spent the entire time brooding about my embarrassment and the fact that they knew exactly why I was there, and what I was about to do. I felt like they were all looking at and analyzing me. After filling out some paperwork and initialing the stickers for the collection bottle, I waited until they called my first name.

    One of the nurses led me down a hallway toward the male collection rooms. We stopped at a collection window where I was briefly instructed on how to deliver my sample when done. Then we continued on to the collection room. It was an extremely small space containing a blue chair with a paper covering. The collection bottle was sitting there. She enthusiastically called my attention to the special lube (the only kind permitted for use in semen collection – do not use any other!), as well as the array of porno magazines and a stack of DVDs. She explained that I was to use the sink in the corner to wash my hands and genitals, and then to perform masturbation in order to collect the sample. Afterward, I would return to the window that she had showed me earlier to hand over the bottle and answer some questions. The full details of these instructions were conveniently posted on the wall.

    As I had no further questions, she beamed a smile at me and waved, reminding me to securely lock the room as she exited. I stood there in disbelief for a few moments, running through all the questions in my head. How long was it normal to take in there? Would my results be normal? Etc. The first thing I did, naturally, is take photos of everything in the room. I needed to chronicle for this my wife, who’d I knew would have a million questions later that afternoon. Then I took a deep breath, went to the sink, pulled down my pants, and washed as instructed.

    As for the elephant in the room: the pornography. (If you don’t really want to know, skip this paragraph.) There were stacks of magazines, mostly outdated. The few on top looked like they’d been through war. No thanks… The covers were ripped off of each one. I carefully pulled out the ones in better condition from the bottom of one stack. There were pages and pages of young women, contorting their bodies into painful looking positions in order to present their perfectly groomed nether regions in ways that are supposed to induce arousal. Another one had a different theme: blowjobs and group sex. Wow, okay. There were also stacks of DVDs, to be played on a TV mounted (no pun intended) on the wall. I pressed play and found two lesbians excitedly going at it. I could only find it amusing that I didn’t share their enthusiasm standing there alone in a suffocatingly small, sterile environment.

    So I opened one of the packets of lube and set it to the side, along with the opened collection container, then yanked my pants down and sat on the chair. I stared at the TV and the open magazines, feeling nothing but awkwardness and anxiety. In a nutshell, I did my thing as fast as I could. Not consciously. I just wanted to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. The constant crunch of the paper covering the chair drove me insane. Ultimately, not taking my time was a mistake. After ejaculating into the collection cup, I realized that because I was frantic and rushing, I didn’t exactly provide the normal amount of output, and immediately started panicking, wondering if it would make my sperm count appear artificially low or something. But what was done was done. As a further testament to my level of anxiety, I glanced over at the unused, but opened, package of lube that I had totally forgotten about, which I knew would have helped. #Fail.

    I cleaned up, pulled my pants back up, tossed the magazines back onto the pile, and hurried out of the room. When I got to the collection window, the poor sod who had gone into another room before me was there answering questions while his cup sat in front of him on the counter. I stood there in the hallway impatiently waiting for him to finish. Another young woman who worked in the facility turned the corner and began walking down the hall. It was painfully awkward to be standing there holding a cup filled with semen while she passed by. I scooted it up into the palm of my hand as she approached. Like a deer in headlights, she stiffly passed by, keeping her eyes front and center the whole time. Finally I advanced to the counter and placed my collection cup there. The nurse rattled off a few questions, like “Was there any spillage?” Here’s a tip. When they ask “When was this sample taken?” don’t stupidly say “Just now” like I did. They seriously want the exact time, so make note of that. As soon as I heard “You’re all set” I zipped down the hallway to get out of there. Again, I felt like all the receptionists and nurses did a double take, turning to look at me as I went. I could hear them saying, “That guy just masturbated” in my head, and I cringed all the way out the door.

    When my wife heard all this and saw the photos I took, her jaw dropped. She flipped through them, gawking. We had a good laugh, and that helped me feel better. Then of course she repeatedly reminded me to delete all the scandalous photos from my phone. Total wife move there.

    I returned maybe a week later for a followup to discuss my results. They were slightly abnormal. I had spent the week brooding about how I probably messed up the sample by not washing right, or by not providing a large enough one, or by taking showers that were too hot. I realized that I sometimes had a hot laptop over my groin. You name it, I had a reason to suggest. In case this happens to you: I was led into an examination room, and told to remove all clothing below my waist. The doctor left. I removed my pants and boxers, and put on the gown. When he returned, I had to sit on the examination table. He raised the gown to expose my genitals. He smeared a jelly-like substance on my testicles, then removed a wand from the machine next to us, which looked like a personal back massager. The machine kept beeping at him, and failed to work, so he left the room saying that he needed to get it fixed. The following will NOT happen to you. I am just the unlucky idiot that these things happen to, so that you can have a chuckle and feel better about how much more smoothly your experience will go: There must have been some miscommunication, because a female nurse strolled into the room. I didn’t have time to react. She took one look at my exposed penis and said “Oh god, I’m sorry!” then shielded her eyes. I quickly tugged the gown down a bit, and placed my hand over my genitals. She quickly assessed the issue with the machine, repeating, “I’m sorry!” over and over for the brief time she was in there. She hurried out as the doctor returned. Then he proceeded with the test, which is basically like an ultrasound for the testicles. He rubbed the wand on one, and then on the other, proudly declaring that everything looked normal. I then got dressed and was passed off to another nurse in a consultation room. She gave me a prescription for a male fertility pill, and explained that I had to return for a second semen analysis. Great. Just great.

    The second time I came (no pun intended) to the facility, I had a different experience. My name was called, and the same young woman led me down the hall. This time, she reminded me of what to do at the collection window, but she paused to smirk and exclaim something like, “I don’t have to tell you this, you know what the deal is!” Ugh. She remembered me. That was one step less awkward than hearing her say “You’re an expert at this now!” But I was determined to stay focused. I took her comment as a test. This time I was far more prepared. I had a list of things I would do better. 1) I would actually remove my clothing, instead of just tugging down my pants for a quickie. This would force me to get more into the right frame of mind. 2) I would take a lot longer in the room. 5 minutes wouldn’t do it. I thought, screw it, I don’t care if anyone is paying attention to how long it takes, and I gave myself 30 minutes. 3) I made sure to r-e-l-a-x. I tried to enjoy the porn without guilt. My old friends the two lesbians were there again. We made a party of it. 4) I made sure to use the lube this time, which significantly increased arousal. Because I forced myself to aim for a longer period of time, I ended up having to prevent ejaculation a couple times. Finally, when I reached the point where I could no longer bear even to be touched, I let go and collected a much, much larger sample that I could feel more confident about receiving results for. Don’t worry about the size of the collection cup. Though it is small, it still appears to anticipate some kind of superhuman deposit that would never actually happen, even after a night of the hottest sex of your life. I knew myself, and I knew it was right this time. I strolled out of there with my head a little higher. Again, all the women in the waiting room turned to look at me, aware of what I just did, but I shrugged it off this time. Whatever, big deal!

    When I returned a week later, my results were more normal. I was dismissed just like that, ready to turn all the attention to my wife. It was a huge weight off my shoulders. The moral of the story is: your anxiety will do nothing but complicate things and make the whole experience more difficult and awkward. Just go with the flow. There’s nothing painful about it. It will be fine, and it will be over and done with in no time. In the meantime, feel free to laugh at my bumbling experience, and take some of these tips and expectations with you! Good luck.

    1. It really depends on the clinic – you’ll have to ask them. A lot of places are totally cool with that.

  4. The article is accurate and sort of described my experience today. Thank you for writing. I had a similar environment but I had a male show me the room, not a female. Not sure which is best. I also wondered why the wife did not come with me…

    Let me give a little different outlook. I hate needles and really most medical procedures. I usually have white coat syndrome which spikes my blood pressure, thus triggering anxiety. Last time I was at a Dr. office the discussion centered around spinal surgery. Not fun. Going to the fertility clinic included no needles, blood pressure cuff or talk of surgery. So, if you need something to get over the awkwardness, just remember it’s better than surgery.

    So, dr. offices are not a fun place for me but at the fertility clinic, all I had to do was masterbate. I can handle that and it was a little awkward but not awful.

    As for a tip to prevent spillage. I think the best method is standing up with member in one hand and cup in other hand. Put part of the member inside the cup just before climax. I think a little bit of spillage is going to be normal.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective – when compare this ‘assignment’ with other things one might need to undergo in a doctor’s office, it definitely makes it seem much better!

  5. My husband has to do this is a few weeks. I wondered if it would be appropriate for me to go, and help get him in the mood. You’ve settled it! They said I could accompany him, and I certainly will after reading your experience. I know he likes looking at me, so that should make it happen rather quickly. I know just what he likes. 😉

  6. I use went thru this process yesterday and your description could have been an exact narrative of my experience. I was surprised by the strangeness I felt leading up to and during an act that normally seems so natural. Wish I would have seen this blog earlier to prepare myself.

  7. I came across your blog as my husband found it hard to give a sample for SA and found it awkward. He said the sample pot is to small and he loses most of the sample. We are in our first IUI this month. Thought we would try a practise run on getting a sample… big fat fail and lost some only getting a drop in the container. I am stressed thinking on the day it will happen. I’m going to ask the nurse if they have larger containers available. Ejaculation does not go in the direction where it shoyld no matter how much you position the container. Thanks for the humour and sharing your experience.
    Any advise.

    Liz

    1. Good idea doing a ‘test run’! I agree you should bring this up to the nurse – hopefully they have a bigger container or can share tips on how to optimize the sample in the smaller sized cup. I know it feels awkward to bring these things up, but you should do whatever you need to do to ensure that you get the best possible outcome. I’m sure they’ve heard much more embarrassing questions in the past… Good luck!

  8. I had a similar experience and was especially curious about how they determine a cup not much larger than a shot glass is appropriate! Do the pros not know the direction in which an ejaculation happens? I’ve heard certain condone are appropriate, but that’s a strange question to ask the receptionist, you know?

  9. I have to do this in a few days. I’m nurvous. Can my wife join me? Or will this be too embarrassing for her?

    1. This really depends on your wife and on the clinic. If both of you are cool about it, and the clinic is on board, then why not? It could certainly add more fun to the process!

  10. Hey
    For me the d-day is tomorrow. Your article brought some solace though. May I ask how long it took you to finish the process. I know it’s subjective yet I am blindly looking for a number to satisfy my mental quest in the stress hours. Will appreciate if any readers bump into the question. Thanks in advance.
    Sks

    1. The Modern Husband says: It can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. I had one time that took a while and I remember feeling a bit embarrassed about it. Other times were pretty quick. Easier said than done, but the less nervous and anxious you are, the faster it goes.

  11. wow, your husband is a brave man for writing this, I’m impressed! We don’t have a “real” RE, we’re working through an OB right now. So my poor hubby has to do it in just a regular exam room. I love him so much for it, he’s a trooper alright 🙂

    1. Wow, your hubby is brave for managing to do this in a regular exam room. I salute him!

  12. I know my husband found this a challenge too when he had to give a SA. It’s a very unnatural environment, so clinical. You did a great job describing it. Since we’re now considering embryo adoption, he probably won’t have to do this again. I guess that’s one advantage that I hadn’t thought of! I wish you well on your journey.

    1. I like your approach – it’s so helpful to find the positive in every situation. Good luck in your TTC journey!

  13. I am definantly passing this along for my husband to read. He hates this part and after our FET didn’t work out he knew he would have to go back in that dreaded room. Thanks for giving us your point of view and making us laugh.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. TTC. I think if all our husbands met, they would have a lot to talk about!

  14. When K had to produce a sample for his semen analysis, he was extremely nervous and confessed he had all these thoughts running through his head (nothing sexy unfortunately). Even then, he was allowed to do that at home! Kudos on your husband for his bravery through a vulnerable process and for sharing his story! Wishing you nothing but the best for your IUI 🙂 Here’s to its success!

  15. I know my hubby has said that “giving a sample” (especially the first time) was incredibly stressful! Thanks for shedding some light on it and putting a little humor in it!

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I completely empathize with our hubbies – that’s a lot of pressure to perform in a very uncomfortable situation…

  16. An inevitable part of infertility journey! Something that couples having a fertility challenge can’t escape from… Others probably won’t understand about the pressure this experience puts both the husband and wife through.

    1. Yes, this is an experience that TV shows and movies always make fun of, but in reality it can be quite stressful and awkward…

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