One crucial decision during an IVF treatment is the optimal timing of abstinence period before providing the sperm sample. Whether the sample is being provided for a semen analysis or for an IVF cycle, timing is important.
Numerous studies to date have investigated into the optimal number of days of abstinence prior to producing a sperm sample during an IVF cycle. However, studies which show population averages may not necessarily provide an effective guide for every man.
For instance, from the perspective of semen volume and sperm count (or concentration), studies show that more days of abstinence provide improved numbers. Therefore, abstinence periods of two days or longer are likely to improve semen volume and sperm count parameters. However, other equally important parameters such as motility (which refers to the ability of a sperm cell to move around) and morphology (which refers to the observable characteristics of the sperm cells) can be negatively affected when abstinence periods are longer. More deleterious effects can be observed when abstinence periods are more than 7 days.
Building on these findings, most doctors will recommend an abstinence period between 2 to 7 days. However, this is only a general approach when providing a semen sample for the first time. If you already have known and diagnosed issues with motility or morphology of your sperm cells, with more days of abstinence, you are hurting your chances of success. Therefore, the shorter the period of abstinence, the more improved these problematic values will be.
If your motility and morphology numbers are within the normal parameters but your numbers suffer on the volume or count/concentration side, then it may be advisable to abstain a bit longer.
Our general rule is to increase the number of days abstained before providing a semen sample if previous semen analyses point to a problem with semen volume or semen count/ concentration. Ideally, 4-5 days of abstinence would be more advisable. If the count and volume parameters are within the normal range but motility and morphology parameters are of concern, then keeping the abstinence period down to 2 days would be recommended: