1. Cryopreservation (Sperm Freezing)
Preserving & Storing Sperm
Sperm cryopreservation or sperm freezing is a method for men to preserve their sperm and store it in a bank for future use. Many medical treatments, including several cancer therapies, can damage sperm quality, which is why you may choose to freeze your sperm before receiving the medical treatment.
Although there is no information about how long frozen sperm can remain effective, sperm twenty years or older have been used successfully in pregnancies. Sperm freezing allows this sperm to be used in the future in fertility treatments, such as intra uterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Sperm Freezing – What to Expect
Patients are usually referred to the andrology laboratory for sperm cryopreservation by their doctor. At the first visit patients can ask questions and clarify anything they might want to know about sperm freezing and cryopreservation, such as storing the samples long term and billing, before the sample is collected and the semen storage agreement signed.
Additionally, patients are always welcome to call with additional questions or clarifications.
How Cryopreservation Is Performed
After a semen sample has been collected, it is placed on a warming block maintained at 37°C, to liquefy. At this time, the semen sample is mixed in a 1:1 ratio with a freezing medium that allows the sperm to survive the freezing and storage process.
Frozen in Liquid Nitrogen
Semen samples are slowly frozen in liquid nitrogen vapors. Once the samples have been frozen in the liquid nitrogen vapors, they are placed in special containers where they are stored in the liquid nitrogen until they are needed. Each ejaculate can yield from one to six vials. Each vial of a patient’s semen sample is labeled with the patient’s name, the date, and a unique number recorded on the side. This information will be used to catalog the semen sample into the storage facility.
Test Thaw Procedure
The survival rate of sperm after cryopreservation can vary widely. Depending on the amount of sperm banked, the lab recommends that one of the cryovials be thawed to examine how successfully an individual’s semen can be stored and thawed.
Sperm freezing and storage
Sperm freezing and storage is the procedure whereby sperm cells are frozen to preserve them for future use. Sperm cells have been frozen and thawed successfully for more than 40 years. By using special technology and then keeping sperm in liquid nitrogen at minus 196C, it can be stored for many years while maintaining a reasonable quality.
Why would I want to freeze sperm?
Unfortunately, life is unpredictable. There are many situations that could interfere with your future fertility. These may include:
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Certain types of pelvic or testicular surgery.
- High-risk occupations or sports.
- Diabetes, which may cause erectile difficulty.
- Male being away from home on day of assisted reproductive treatment.
How do I arrange sperm freezing?
Please ask your GP or specialist for a referral form to see one of our specialists at City Fertility Centre.
At your first appointment we will arrange blood tests for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. We routinely screen for these infections because they may be transmitted through the semen to a female partner or an unborn child, and to minimise the risk of contamination during storage. Once you receive your blood test results, please contact us to book a time for our laboratory to freeze your semen sample. You may arrange to produce your specimen at home and deliver it within one hour of collection, or book one of our rooms. At this time you will need to sign consent forms for the freezing and storage of sperm, which lasts for up to 10 years at a time.
How many sperm samples do I freeze?
Everyone’s situation is different. Most men freeze between two and five samples. Some choose to freeze many more. Often, the time interval before surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be the deciding factor. We recommend abstaining from intercourse and ejaculation for at least two days but not longer than five days before the first sample, and for about two days between the samples.
The standard storage period for sperm is 10 years. This term can be exceeded only in certain circumstances. City Fertility Centre will explain whether you can do this, and for how long you may be able to store your sperm. The amount of time in storage does not influence the success rate. Damage can occur to the sperm during freezing and thawing, not while it is frozen.
There is a fee for freezing each semen sample. This charge includes six months’ storage. After the initial six months, costs apply for storing one or more samples at City Fertility Centre. This annual storage fee applies regardless of the number of samples stored and is not refundable. Please contact us to ask about our current rates.
If you decide to freeze and store your sperm with our Fertility Centre, you must update us about any address changes.
What happens if I want to thaw and use the samples?
Please inform your IVF doctor that you wish to use your frozen sperm sample. Your partner may require some basic fertility investigations. If the sperm samples are of good quality, they can be used for Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) at the time of ovulation. Because the sperm has been frozen and thawed, pregnancy rates are usually lower than in the general fertile population, about 5 per cent to 10 per cent a cycle.
Could there be a problem with the quality of sperm?
Yes, there may be a problem with the number and quality of the sperm, especially in men who are about to undergo cancer treatment. Their underlying illness may have caused a reduction in the sperm count or in their motility (movement). In such situations it may be advisable to freeze even more specimens if time and treatment permit.
If the sperm count or motility is low, the thawed samples may not be suitable for intra-uterine inseminations. However, we can still use them for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), whereby individual sperm are injected directly into the eggs. These procedures are much more complex and costly, but can result in pregnancies even in cases where the sperm count is low or the sperm are functionally impaired.
Are there any problems with the children produced by the use of frozen/thawed sperm?
Research has shown no difference in the rates of abnormalities or birth defects among children conceived with fresh versus frozen sperm. However, there are some theoretical concerns that chemotherapy drugs may have unknown effects on the sperm or the offspring. If possible, it is best to freeze the specimens before chemotherapy begins.
2. Sperm Banking & Cryopreservation
The purpose of cryopreserving semen (sperm banking) is to help ensure the possibility of conception in the future. When choosing a sperm bank, it is important to find a facility that you believe will be in business for many years to come (we have been open since the 1980s) so that you can safely store your sperm long-term.
At the Fertility Center of California our sperm bank uses the most advanced medical equipment available and has around the clock security to keep your specimens safe. If you are reaching advanced reproductive age, have a hazardous occupation or will undergo major surgery, you are an excellent candidate for sperm banking.
Short-term Semen Cryobanking
Short-term semen cryobanking is the depositing, freezing and storage of sperm at a sperm bank for less than one year. Cryobanked sperm is then used in artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other fertility treatment procedures.
Short-term semen cryobanking is recommended to preserve semen for deferred inseminations when an intimate partner is temporarily absent. It is also recommended in cases of oligozoospermia (low sperm counts) where multiple semen collections and pooling may be desirable for use in a single insemination. Short-term storage is also performed prior to assisted reproductive technologies (i.e., in vitro fertilization, gamete intrafallopian transfer, etc…) to secure a good quality semen specimen for the prospective procedure.
Process of Collection of Specimen and Cryopreservation at FCC
After reading the information on this page, you may fill out the forms for cryopreservation.
Contact our office to ask any questions you may have and make an appointment to collect a semen sample. Services are provided 7 days a week. Prior to the collection of semen, sexual abstinence for at least 2 days, but not more than 5 days, is recommended to maximize the quality of the sample for cryopreservation.
The specimen will be collected into a sterile container through masturbation. Collection may occur at home, provided that it does not take more than 1 hour to bring the sample to our facility. Otherwise, specimens may be collected at our facility in our private rooms designated for this purpose. Please bring a valid photo ID to your appointment. During your first visit, we will draw blood for the infectious disease screening. You can call our office for lab results the day after your appointment and decide if you would like to store more samples at our cryopreservation center.
A sperm sample will be divided into one or more vials depending on the number of motile sperm in the original sample. Each vial is used for one insemination attempt. However, some physicians like to use two vials per insemination or even perform two inseminations per cycle. No one can predict in advance how many vials are needed to achieve a pregnancy. We recommend at least 12 vials (3-6 samples) to be stored. The vials can also be used in advanced reproductive techniques such as IVF.
Long-Term Semen Cryopreservation
Proven, time-tested techniques enable semen specimens and embryos to be frozen and stored indefinitely in liquid nitrogen. According to the donor’s specific wishes, these specimens and embryos can later be thawed and used in an attempt to conceive through artificial insemination, IVF or other fertility treatment techniques.
Cryopreservation Technique and Identification
Each sample (ejaculate) is mixed with a special media or solution to help provide protection during freezing and thawing. The samples are then placed in special plastic vials, which are coded, and carefully frozen in liquid nitrogen vapor. Once frozen, the vials are immersed in liquid nitrogen in secure tanks at a temperature of -196° C (-371° F). The liquid nitrogen is independent of any source of power, and is regularly checked and replenished. Each patient is assigned a unique “cryo code” and the sperm sample is processed individually using permanently marked vials by our licensed and certified clinical lab scientists.
Go to our patient forms and fee schedule to find out more information.
Reasons to Cryopreserve Sperm
Some men discover they have diseases or must undergo treatment or surgery, which will cause permanent sterilization or genetic damage. As cancer detection and treatment techniques improve, more conditions such as cancer are being detected at younger ages in men, with longer survival rates. Therefore, more men in their fertile years are now considering cryopreservation to preserve their fertility after cancer diagnosis.
Pre-Vasectomy Sperm Banking
Some fertile men wish to have a vasectomy, but still desire to keep the option open to father children should their circumstances change in the future.
Military & Hazardous Occupation Fertility Preservation
Some men are engaged in high-risk occupations, which involve exposure to radiation, dangerous chemicals, or physical harm. Sperm banking helps ensure their chance of fathering children in the future. These occupations may force them to be away from their partners during a period of time in which they had planned to conceive a child. Artificial insemination using cryopreserved semen allows such couples a chance to follow their desired plan. We offer an @Home Sperm Freezing Kit for last minute deployments or emergencies.