Callie Barnwell Gibson, PhD, Andrologist/Jr. Embryologist


Whether you are just starting your journey or have already selected a sperm bank and a sperm donor – you will need to know what vial type of donor sperm to purchase. The type of vial(s) that you should purchase will depend upon your treatment plan and the type of procedure that will be performed here at Carolina Conceptions. Most sperm banks will offer two categories of donor sperm vials: IUI (washed) vials and ICI (unwashed) vials.


For IUI Patients: 


If you plan to undergo an intrauterine insemination (IUI), the donor sperm specimen must be “washed” prior to the procedure. The raw ejaculate cannot be injected directly into the uterus as it contains prostaglandins that cause severe pain and cramping. When specimens are washed, the raw ejaculate is placed over a density gradient which removes non-motile and poorly swimming sperm as well as white blood cells and other unnecessary components. The resulting product contains a high concentration of the motile sperm, increasing the chances of fertilization. For IUI patients, it is best to purchase sperm that has been washed by the sperm bank, as the sperm bank can control the final concentration of sperm that is placed in each vial and test the post-thaw survival rate for each “batch”. This also allows most sperm banks to offer a guarantee on the post-thaw motile sperm count of each IUI vial; generally, at least 10 million motile sperm per vial after thawing. You can check with your sperm bank regarding their guarantee policy and any restrictions.


In rare cases, such as where you (or your partner) already have a child from a sperm donor that only has ICI (unwashed) vials left, you may be able to use ICI vials for your IUI. In these cases, we will wash the specimen here at Carolina Conceptions. We may recommend that you order 2 ICI vials for each IUI procedure to ensure that there will be sufficient motile sperm for your IUI, as some motile sperm will be lost during the washing process at CC. Furthermore, the motility guarantee from the sperm bank will generally be void in this instance. Please note that there will be an additional processing fee to have the sperm washed at CC. It is also important to know that your ICI vial(s) will require additional processing time on the day of your IUI, so we recommend arriving at CC an hour prior to your scheduled IUI appointment time.


For IVF Patients: 


If you plan to undergo IVF treatment with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), you can select any vial type that you prefer. We will still wash the specimen prior to ICSI, but as this procedure requires much fewer sperm than an IUI, we are not concerned by a loss of some motile sperm during processing. Conventional insemination in IVF does require more sperm than ICSI. If you are planning to use conventional insemination or a mixture of conventional and ICSI, we recommend that you order either IUI or ICI vials.


Some sperm banks may additionally offer a third type of vial, generally labelled ART, ICSI, or IVF vials. These are generally unwashed samples with a lower sperm count (compared to the traditional ICI vials) and are usually meant to be used in IVF cases utilizing ICSI as the method of fertilization.


Vial Type Washed or Unwashed Suitable Procedures
IUI Washed IUI

IVF – conventional


ICI Unwashed IVF – conventional


IUI if washed by CC for additional fee*



*Motility guarantee from the sperm bank is generally void if specimen undergoes additional processing at CC prior to insemination.


In summary:

  • For an IUI procedure, you will need to purchase IUI washed vials.


  • If you will be doing IVF with ICSI, you may purchase any vial type you prefer.


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