There are situations in life when the depositing of sperm in a long-term storage bank offers options for future preservation and peace of mind. The two primary reasons for sperm freezing are long-term preservation for later use by depositors and availability of sperm for donor insemination. There are a number of reasons why men should consider sperm cryopreservation:
- Before undergoing cancer therapies. Cancer therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can cause permanent sterility and infertility. Having their sperm frozen can preserve future fertility.
- Before having prostate or testicular surgery. Testicular surgery, prostatectomy and similar surgeries can cause sterility, or redirect the flow of semen into the urinary bladder. Sperm cryopreservation can ensure that men who have these surgeries can preserve their reproductive capabilities.
- If considering a vasectomy. Sperm cryopreservation can preserve fertility and prevent the need for reversal surgery if personal circumstances change.
- When involved with Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Sperm can be stored for use with IUI, IVF, ICSI, GIFT, and other similar procedures so that it is available at a critical time. Sperm that is obtained through sperm aspiration, vibratory stimulation, or through surgery can be stored to prevent the need for additional procedures.
- High-risk occupations. High risk professions with exposure to chemicals, radiation, extreme heat, etc. can cause sterility in men.
- Low sperm counts or low-quality sperm. Higher-quality sperm samples can be frozen for later use with IVF and ICSI. Specimens can be pooled to increase the likelihood of achieving pregnancy.
- Ejaculatory dysfunction. It is thought that sperm number and quality decreases over time when ejaculation doesn’t occur. Therefore, in cases where men can’t ejaculate, such as with spinal cord injury, preserving sperm as early as possible may increase their fertility chances.
- When men are going to be absent. Sperm freezing enables the female partner to continue with her reproductive schedule even if the male partner can’t be there, due to a busy schedule, unforeseen events, etc.
Sperm Cryopreservation Procedure
- Obtaining the semen sample. Semen samples are collected in a sterile container. It is recommended that patients abstain for at least three days, but not more than ten days. In patients who cannot ejaculate on their own, samples can be collected using vibratory stimulation or testicular sperm aspiration.
- Semen Analysis. Once collected, semen samples are analyzed for volume, viscosity and pH levels, and microscopically evaluated to determine motility, sperm count, morphology and other important factors.
- Semen/Sperm Cryopreservation. Cryoprotectant is added to the semen to control sperm damage caused by freezing. The specimen is then divided into individual cryo-vials, placed into liquid nitrogen vapor for 3 hours, and then plunged into liquid nitrogen. At a temperature of -196°C all metabolic activity is halted. Semen can thus be preserved for many years.