Electroejaculation

Electroejaculation helps people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and other conditions ejaculate sperm. A device sends mild electric currents to the prostate gland, causing ejaculation. Healthcare providers use the sperm to aid conception via artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Overview

What is electroejaculation?

Electroejaculation is a way to obtain sperm when a person can’t ejaculate on their own due to a spine injury, nerve problem or other condition. A healthcare provider inserts an electrical stimulator device into your rectum to reach the prostate gland. Mild electrical currents stimulate the gland, causing ejaculation to occur. A healthcare provider stores any released fluid. Your provider may also place a catheter (thin, flexible tube) in your penis to collect sperm.

Later, a healthcare provider specializing in reproductive medicine uses the sperm to help your partner or a gestational surrogate conceive a baby.

What is ejaculation?

Ejaculation is the release of semen and sperm. Sperm are male reproductive cells. Semen (seminal fluid) mixes with sperm during ejaculation to keep sperm healthy and viable for conception and pregnancy.

For most people, ejaculation occurs during the orgasm phase of the sexual response cycle. Your central nervous system controls your ability to ejaculate. When you’re sexually aroused, blood vessels in your penis (part of the male reproductive system) fill up with blood. This causes an erection.

You ejaculate when you reach peak excitement (also known as climax). These actions take place when:

  • The vas deferens tubes that store and carry sperm from your testicles (testes) squeeze or contract, sending sperm toward the base of your penis.
  • The prostate gland and seminal vesicles in the base of your penis release semen that mixes with the sperm.
  • Muscles at the base of your penis contract, forcing the semen and sperm out through the opening in your penis.
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Who needs electroejaculation?

Certain conditions can affect your ability to ejaculate and contribute to male infertility. You may need electroejaculation as part of fertility treatments to conceive a biological child.

Conditions that cause ejaculation problems and infertility include:

Procedure Details

Who performs electroejaculation?

A urologist performs electroejaculation. This medical doctor specializes in conditions that affect your reproductive system and urinary system. The procedure may take place in your provider’s office, an outpatient clinic or a hospital. It’s an outpatient procedure, so you go home the same day.

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What happens before electroejaculation?

Depending on the cause of the ejaculation problem, your healthcare provider may have you try penile vibratory stimulation (PVS) first. If needed, you take medications to get an erection. You then hold a vibrating device to the tip of your penis. The vibrations can bring on orgasm and ejaculation. If PVS is unsuccessful, electroejaculation may be the next step.

What happens during electroejaculation?

You receive general anesthesia to help you sleep through the procedure. Someone needs to drive you home afterward. If you don’t have sensation below the waist, you might not need anesthesia.

You may lie face up or on your side during the procedure. Your healthcare provider:

  1. Threads a catheter through your urethra to empty the bladder of urine.
  2. Injects a medication through the catheter into the bladder to lower the organ’s acidity level. This protects sperm that may enter the bladder during ejaculation (retrograde ejaculation).
  3. Inserts a lubricated stimulator device into your anus and rectum (the last parts of your digestive system).
  4. Positions the device next to your prostate gland.
  5. Activates the device, which sends a mild electric current to your prostate gland. The provider then stops the current after one to two seconds. This is a stimulus cycle.
  6. Repeats the stimulus cycle, gradually increasing the intensity until ejaculation occurs (usually after two to three stimulus cycles).
  7. Uses the catheter to collect the seminal fluid and sperm from your penis and bladder.
  8. Removes the catheter and stimulation device.
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What happens after electroejaculation?

While you’re still under anesthesia, your provider may perform an immediate semen analysis to check the volume and quality of your sperm. If you have healthy sperm that can lead to conception, a lab will freeze and store the sperm for later use in fertility treatments (sperm banking).

If there’s no sperm in your ejaculate (azoospermia) or the sperm can’t produce a pregnancy, your healthcare provider may perform a testicular sperm extraction. (But only if you agreed to this procedure in advance.) With this procedure, your provider retrieves sperm directly through your testicles. If you choose testicular sperm extraction at a later time, you’ll need to undergo another surgical procedure.

How does conception take place after electroejaculation?

There are different ways that conception may take place after electroejaculation:

  • Artificial insemination: During artificial or intrauterine insemination (IUI), your healthcare provider injects your sperm into a person’s uterus. This female reproductive organ is also known as the womb.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): In a laboratory setting, your healthcare provider uses your sperm to fertilize your partner’s (or your surrogate’s) eggs, creating embryos. Your provider then transfers these embryos into the uterus. Or you may choose to freeze and store the embryos (embryo cryopreservation).
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Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of electroejaculation?

Electroejaculation can help people diagnosed with certain conditions conceive a child.

What are the risks of electroejaculation?

If you have a spinal cord injury, electroejaculation can raise your heart rate and cause high blood pressure. Your healthcare provider will monitor you closely for these complications. In rare instances, the stimulator device can cause burns.

Recovery and Outlook

What is recovery like after electroejaculation?

You may experience mild pain and discomfort for a few days after the procedure. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help.

Painful urination (dysuria) is also common. You should call your healthcare provider if the problem lasts for more than three days. You may have a urinary tract infection (UTI), which requires antibiotics.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call my doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you want to conceive a child and can’t ejaculate sperm, electroejaculation can help. A urologist uses a rectal device to send mild electrical currents to your prostate gland. The stimulation causes you to ejaculate. A reproductive medicine specialist uses sperm from the ejaculate to aid conception. You should talk to these medical specialists to determine if electroejaculation can help you conceive a child.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/12/2022.

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