It’s natural to be unprepared for a child during the healthiest years of your life due to many factors. You may not be sure if you want kids, you may not be married or you’re just not ready financially to support a child. Sperm freezing is one of the best ways to ensure that you can have a child later if you choose to and still have the best sperm intact.
Sperm freezing or sperm cryopreservation is the process by which your sperm is collected and stored in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196 degrees centigrade. This is usually done at a sperm bank or a fertility center.
Sperm freezing has many advantages, and it can be done by anyone irrespective of whether they plan to donate sperm, or have their own children or not. This blog will discuss sperm freezing and how Dreams can help you preserve your fertility over the long term through the process.
Why Freeze Sperm?
Let’s talk about the benefits of freezing sperm first. Many men choose to freeze their sperm to preserve their fertility in the long term. Frozen sperm can be thawed and used for Intrauterine Insemination(IUI) or In-vitro Fertilization (IVF). Frozen sperm can also be stored for indefinite periods of time if stored in the right conditions.
There are many reasons for people to freeze their sperm. Here are some of the important ones
The Male Biological Clock
Age is one of the big reasons why people opt to freeze their sperm. As men get older, the mobility of the sperm goes down and so does the sperm count. This is observed in men above the age of 40. Sperm quality is a very important factor in pregnancy and hence freezing a sample of healthy sperm from the younger years is a great way to ensure that one can have healthy biological children at any age if they choose to.
Cancer treatment using chemotherapy or radiation can destroy your fertility. It is often the case that men after undergoing cancer treatment have very little sperm in their ejaculate. This is another reason why people choose to freeze their sperm samples before getting any such treatment. Even if you are not getting treatment, saving healthy sperm ensures that you don’t have to worry about infertility later.
Vasectomy or Other Medical Procedures
Vasectomy is a means of birth control among men. While vasectomies can be reversed, pregnancy may be a challenge. In such cases, men choose to have their sperm samples collected and stored for fertility preservation before they undergo vasectomy.
Other medical treatments can also negatively impact sperm motility and quality and affect male fertility. Hormone replacement therapy and sickle cell therapy are such procedures that can lead to a loss in the quality of sperm. Sperm freezing becomes an option for people undergoing these treatments too.
It’s often the case that people who have high-risk professions choose to freeze their sperm due to the fear of injury. It enables them to preserve their fertility in case anything happens to them and their ability to have children naturally.
What is the Process to Freeze Sperm?
The first step in the freezing process is medical screening. The fertility specialist or the andrologist will perform blood tests to ensure that you are not carrying any sexually transmitted diseases. They will also do a semen analysis to ensure that you don’t have issues such as low sperm count, abnormalities in the sperm shape, or issues with sperm motility. It makes sense to store only motile sperm that have a chance of success after freezing it. In case any issues are discovered, the doctors may suggest fertility treatment to fix those issues first before the semen sample is collected for freezing.
The next step in the process is sample collection. This can be done at the sperm bank or the fertility center or at home. Sample collection usually happens via masturbation and the sample is stored in sterile cups. If this is being done at home, the sample has to be handed over to the sperm bank in an hour.
In some cases, you may need surgical collection. In cases where the sperm count is low or you have undergone a previous vasectomy, collecting sperm from the ejaculate may not be possible. In these cases, the surgeon will collect the sperm from the testicular tissue directly.
The sperm is then extracted from the seminal fluid and analyzed before it is stored. The andrologist takes a look at the sperm cells under a microscope to ensure that there is enough quantity and it is healthy both in terms of their morphology and motility. Once the semen quality is established, it is split into multiple samples and stored with cryoprotectants in vials. The cryopreserved sperm is usually stored at a temperature of -196 degrees centigrade.
Using frozen sperm at a later date involves a thawing process. The sperm is taken out of the storage and it thaws naturally. Once it has thawed, the sample is analyzed to ensure that there is enough sperm left for successful use. Typically, approximately 50% of the sperm may not survive the freezing and thawing process. But given that there almost always is a high quantity of sperm ejaculated, there is usually enough left for use.
There are almost 15-200 million sperm in a milliliter of ejaculate. IUI requires 10 million sperm for success. IVF requires much smaller numbers than that. It is found that the sperm that has successfully survived the freezing and thawing cycle has a higher success rate when it comes to IVF or IUI.
The sperm can be frozen and stored indefinitely. This makes a great solution for people who are unsure about children now or face the risk of sterility due to various factors. Banked sperm has been used successfully after freezing for 20 years in some cases.
What are the Legalities Involved?
The process is quite straightforward though there are a few things you have to cover. . The fertility clinic will be the best bet to get these sorted out. A consent form is one of the things you need to sign before you freeze your sperm. A legal contract is also a part of the process where it lays out the various aspects of freezing the sperm and some important elements like what to do in case of your disability or death and what should be done with or who should get control of your sample. Legalities are important and need to be given due consideration before you freeze the sperm.
What About the Costs Involved?
Sperm freezing is not a very costly process in most cases. Initially, the overall process will involve the costs of medical checkups, blood work testing, and semen analysis that need to happen. Once this is done, the yearly storage fee is all you have to worry about. Generally, the initial cost is around $800-$1,000. The yearly storage fees can range from $350-$500 a year depending on the storage fees of your provider. There are also long-term storage facilities that might be more affordable if you plan to store your sperm for five years or more.
Advancements in reproductive medicine mean that there is more than one way to tackle male infertility if it occurs to you at any stage. But like any medical procedure, there is no guarantee of success. Freezing your healthy sperm is one way to guarantee that if all other avenues fail, you still have your healthy sperm sample in storage for use.
Sperm freezing is an ideal way for you to preserve your fertility for yourself or if you are a sperm donor and want to help others fulfill their dream of having children. Dreams Fertility has helped hundreds of clients with services such as sperm and egg freezing and fertility treatment. Looking for a fertility center that will leave no stone unturned to help you get to your dream of having a family? Schedule a consultation today!
Dr. Luis Murrain joined Dreams Fertility in 2021, providing specialty services in Fertility and Reproductive Genetics. With a shared vision that everyone deserves to have the family of their dreams, we are dedicated to helping all of our patients. We believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. We are proud to have a long history of providing services to all, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples on their road to parenthood.