Fertility preservation is not just for women. Men also lose sperm count and mobility with age, and sperm freezing is your fertility insurance for the future. Also known as cryopreservation of semen or sperm banking, it is a rather simple procedure that takes little time.
Similar to egg freezing, it involves storing the male sperm for fertility treatments in the future.
According to research by Niels Jorgenson from the University of Copenhagen, there has been a drastic decrease in the quality and quantity of sperm for the past fifty years. Corresponding to his 70 years’ worth of data, at least 15% of men today need fertility treatments or some kind of medical assistance for procreation.
Should I freeze my sperm?
Almost 75% of male cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy end up with significantly impaired sperm and fertility potential.
The first successful pregnancy with frozen sperm was recorded back in 1953.
Ever since, sperm freezing has become a proactive choice for various other reasons. The most common reasons to opt for cryopreservation of sperm are:
- Treatment for cancer – Cancer treatments such as chemo, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplants may cause permanent damage to your fertility. They can wreak havoc on your hormones, ejaculation, sperm production, and motility. There are also specific forms of cancer like testicular or prostate cancer that can cause infertility. Consider freezing your sperm before you undergo any aggressive treatment.
- Professional hazards – Certain jobs which require you to stay apart for long periods of time and some high-risk professions (that involve chemicals, physical strain, and stress) can put fertility preservation into perspective.
- Surgery – Some men undergo vasectomy as they don’t plan to have children in future; however, later they change their minds. If you have frozen sperm, it can easily be used for IVF procedure after vasectomy; it is likely to be less expensive, safer, and more effective that vasectomy reversal.
- Military service – High-risk careers that involve the possibility of combat-related injuries, extreme toxins or chemical warfare may benefit from sperm freezing as the risk of infertility in veterans has been reported to be double that in the general population.
At what age should I freeze the sperm?
Much research has been done on birth defects caused due to women conceiving later in life but recent studies show that age also affects fertility in men. Various studies have shown that babies conceived with the male older than 45 are prone to a higher risk of genetic problems.
Although the timing is not as crucial as it is for women, the best time to freeze your sperm is in your 30s, when the sperm quality and motility is at its prime.
Unlike women, men continue to produce sperm throughout their lives but the motility, morphology, concentration and the DNA of the sperms cells is known to get damaged with age. If you’re not sure, you can do this simple test known as sperm DNA fragmentation testing to understand the health of your sperm before you decide to freeze it.
What is the process of sperm freezing?
Before the actual procedure, you will go through a routine check-up to test for infections. 3-4 days of abstinence is recommended before collecting the sample.
Your semen sample will then be collected by the andrology unit naturally or if required, through a testicular biopsy, which is collecting the sample directly from the testicles using a needle.
The sperm is then mixed with a protective nitrogen solution and frozen slowly. A single ejaculation, which is typically 1.5 to 5 milliliters (1.5–5cc) can produce up to 6 vials.
The lab will first measure the semen volume and then wash it with sterile media. The sample is then processed in a centrifuge machine to separate the sperm from the media and the seminal fluid. That way the lab has a concentrated sample of sperm that can be analyzed (for sperm count, morphology, motility) and stored.
New: At-home Sperm freezing
It is now possible to freeze your sperm sample without having to step out or release your sample in the confinement of a dingy room at a fertility clinic.
Freezing sperm with at-home kits is now possible in some locations. Please get in touch to learn more.
What is post-thaw analysis of sperm?
If freezing is done prior to analysis, a single vial is thawed to test the quality and quantity of your semen.
Freezing and thawing of sperm is a sophisticated process and if done by a qualified specialist at a good laboratory, over 80% of the sperm should survive the thaw. Remember, only one good sperm is required for fertilization of the egg even though for an intrauterine insemination to be successful, it is estimated as that a sample of around 10 million sperm is ideal.
At the time of ICSI, the best sperm is selected under the microscope for the fertilization process.
The post-thaw analysis is important to know if your frozen sample is any good and will be viable in the future. It gives you an idea of the quantity and quality of the sperm you will have to work with, when you’re ready to use it.
What if sperm concentration and semen quality is poor?
For IUI, the cryopreserved semen sample needs to have a high concentration of good quality sperm but with ICSI treatments, where the doctor can select an individual sperm to inject into the egg cell, a relatively poorer quality of semen in not a problem.
If however, your semen analysis indicates very poor quality sperm that is not fit for freezing, you can consult with your doctor and make some lifestyle changes to enhance your sperm quality. Human sperm is produced every 2-3 months, so a better lifestyle and some prescribed medications can result in better quality sperm.
How long can the sperm remain frozen?
There is no specific time limit for frozen sperm samples. The longest time a frozen sperm was used to conceive was 28 years in New York 2005. Simply put, as long as it is stored under proper conditions in liquid nitrogen, your sperm can be stored indefinitely.
But factually, successful deliveries have been made with frozen sperm and embryos which have been stored for 12-15 years.
Most clinics will usually charge an annual fee as long as you keep the sample frozen with them.
What is the cost of sperm freezing?
The cost of collecting, analyzing, and freezing sperm is between $400 – $1,000, depending upon your clinic and its location.
Storage costs for sperm also fluctuate between $200 to $500 yearly or every 2 years.
Is it safe?
There are no side effects of naturally collecting and storing sperm samples, though there are certain risks in cases where the sperm is surgically extracted with a testicular biopsy.
One of the main concerns includes the sperm not surviving the freezing process. This can be on the off chance that the sample is limited or the sperm count is low.
How can I be sure my semen sample is secure?
Make sure you work with a trusted lab, and if you’re in the US, with a HIPPA-compliant facility. The clinics and facilities we work with are careful in handling the sample and committed to client privacy.
All the materials used through the process will be uniquely labeled with your name, date, appropriate code, and the samples are processed individually at separate workstations and managed with sterile tools.
What is the success of conceiving with frozen sperm?
It has been established by research that the frozen sperm retrieved from the sample can be as successful at fertilizing the egg as the fresh sperm; it has a fertilization rate of 62%.
That being said, women 35 years and younger with healthy ovulation have a 73% chance of getting pregnant using frozen sperm through in-vitro fertilization. While the procedures are more or less similar, the method of insemination differs largely.
How to end your sperm storage agreement?
As long as you want to keep your sperm frozen, you will have to pay an annual fee to the facility. Once you have used up the required sample or for any reason, decide to terminate the contract, all you have to do is complete is disposition form asking the clinic to terminate your contract and destroy the stored sample.
Benefits of freezing sperm
- It is a simple, risk-free process that guarantees fertility preservation for men
- It is inexpensive, including the routine check-ups and storage
- It allows you to pursue your own goals without having to worry about the future
- You can have medical treatments done without having to worry about your reproductive health
With no surgery or complications, where the sperm can be stored indefinitely, cryopreservation of sperm is a form of healthy assurance for men to have a future unfettered by fertility issues.
For more information to start with your sperm freezing process, get in touch via the form on this page.
Levine, H., Jørgensen, N., Martino-Andrade, A., Mendiola, J., Weksler-Derri, D., Mindlis, I., Pinotti, R., & Swan, S. H. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human reproduction update, 23(6), 646–659. https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmx022
McGrath JJ, Petersen L, Agerbo E, Mors O, Mortensen PB, Pedersen CB. A Comprehensive Assessment of Parental Age and Psychiatric Disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(3):301–309. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4081
Kenan Omurtag ,Amber Cooper,Arnold Bullock,Cathy Naughton,Valerie Ratts,Randall Odem,Susan E. Lanzendorf. Sperm Recovery and IVF after Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE): Effect of Male Diagnosis and Use of Off-Site Surgical Centers on Sperm Recovery and IVF. 2013; https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069838