ICI or IUI: Washed or unwashed donor sperm?


IUI-ready (intrauterine insemination) units have been processed (washed). Before cryopreservation, the sperm cells are separated from the seminal fluid through density gradient, washed and then added a cryopreservative fluid. IUI-ready sperm is ready for use, and does not need further processing before insemination. IUI-ready sperm is placed directly into the uterus by passing a catheter through the cervical canal. Through this procedure, more sperm cells can reach the egg in the fallopian tubes and consequently more sperm is available for fertilisation – which increases the chance of pregnancy.

ICI (intra-cervical insemination) units hold all the naturally occurring ejaculate fluid and cells. There will still be plenty of motile sperm cells, but also dead sperm cells. Cervix and cervical fluid will only let the highly motile sperm cells up into the uterus and fallopian tubes, just as it would through natural intercourse.

ICI sperm must be 'washed' at the clinic before being used for intrauterine insemination as only the sperm cells are to be placed inside the uterus. Unwashed sperm placed directly into the uterus may cause anaphylactic shock.

Unwashed sperm is used by the clinics only under rare conditions and only for vaginal insemination. Furthermore, unwashed sperm is used for home insemination, which is always vaginal.

How to choose

How to choose ICI or IUI happy redhead mother and baby

Most of the clinics we work with prefer MOT20+ units for all treatments, but the choice of IUI or ICI depends on your treatment method. In general, IUI can be used for all treatments, and ICI is recommended for home insemination or if the clinic prefers to wash it themselves, e.g. for IVF treatments.

Before placing your order, it is best to consult your physician concerning whether IUI-ready sperm units or ICI sperm units should be ordered.

If the clinic has not specifically asked you to buy ICI, we recommend that you buy IUI or consult your physician concerning any preferences.

Most pregnancies require more than one treatment, and we recommend that you consider buying multiple straws from the outset. This ensures that the donor does not sell out during your treatment and saves you the shipping cost per straw. Consult your clinic for advise on the optimal number of straws for you. If your clinic does not offer storage for your straws, you can purchase a Parent Storage from European Sperm Bank.