Sperm Cryopreservation—also called sperm freezing or sperm banking—is the process of freezing male sperm and storing it for future use. It is an option available for men who may wish to father children in the future, but who anticipate events that may cause infertility.
Sperm cryopreservation is a good option for men who:
- Wish to preserve sperm availability as they age.
- Are scheduled to receive cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, which can affect sperm count in seminal fluid.
- Are scheduled to receive surgical procedures, such as a vasectomy or orchiectomy, that will cause temporary or permanent infertility.
- Will soon begin taking medications that can affect fertility, such as testosterone, alpha-blockers, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or sickle cell therapy.
- Work in high-risk occupations, such as the military, and wish to make sperm available to their partners in case of accident or death.
When a male elects to have his sperm frozen, he must first undergo a simple blood test to look for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If the blood test does not detect the presence of STIs, seminal fluid samples are collected from the male at a licensed fertility center and analyzed for sperm count and sperm health. In order to increase the likelihood of a good sample, it is recommended that he practice at least 24-72 hours of abstinence (masturbation or intercourse) prior to collection. For males with a low sperm count, or whose fertility has been impacted by medications, treatments, surgeries or other conditions, it may be necessary to undergo surgery to extract sperm for freezing.
When a sample is determined to be viable, it undergoes the cryopreservation process, where it is placed in vials and frozen in liquid nitrogen. The frozen samples are stored at a constant temperature of -196°C until needed for fertilization.
Thanks to advances in the collection and freezing process, sperm banking has become a reliable method for ensuring the success of future pregnancies. While success rates can also depend on the age and fertility status of the female partner, there is a greater likelihood that sperm samples that have undergone the sperm cryopreservation process will continue to be viable once thawed for assisted reproductive technology procedures such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
If you have considered sperm banking, please schedule a consultation with a Baylor Medicine reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, who would be happy to talk through the process as you decide if it is right for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Family Fertility Center at (832) 826-7272.