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Sperm Freezing

Sperm freezing can preserve a man’s fertility for the future.

Sperm freezing, or cryopreservation, is available for several different situations. Sometimes, sperm needs to be cryopreserved for the short-term while a couple is undergoing fertility treatments. Men with active travel schedules may consider freezing sperm so that treatment is not delayed if they have to be out of town. Men who suffer from “performance anxiety” (a very common situation) may choose to freeze sperm to take away the pressure of having to produce a specimen on short notice.

Some men consider long-term preservation of their sperm. This is especially true for men with chronic illnesses requiring treatment with medications that can interfere with either sperm production or function. They may be planning a vasectomy and want to have sperm stored for the future if things change, to avoid having costly or invasive vasectomy reversal surgeries in the future. Or they may be undergoing cancer treatment or other medical procedures and want to bank sperm to try to father a child someday.

Prior to sperm freezing, a semen analysis determines how many and what quality of sperm are being frozen.

Once a sample is collected, the andrologists (laboratory scientists skilled at examining and preparing sperm) will do an initial assessment of the sperm present, including calculations of volume, concentration and motility. Sperm are then portioned or divided out into different vials depending on the intended future use (IUI, IVF or ICSI) and frozen in liquid nitrogen at 400 degrees below zero. This temperature stops all cellular function without damaging the chromosomes in the sperm.

In this way, sperm can be frozen for many years without impairing their ability to function. In human reproduction, only up to 50% of sperm survive the freeze/thaw process, which is why frozen vials of sperm (whether at sperm banks or fertility clinics) contain more sperm than what will be needed for any given treatment. This allows the best-quality sperm to be used for future treatments.

Depending on your family-building goals and the amount of sperm present in a sample, you may plan for several specimen freezes.

Long-term studies show no increased risk of producing chromosomally abnormal children from the use of frozen sperm, so sperm freezing has become a safe, well-accepted procedure that is routinely used in a modern andrology laboratory.

Reasons to freeze sperm for the short term

Prior to advanced reproductive treatments: Fertility treatments can be stressful, and sometimes that stress can interfere with the production of an adequate semen sample at a critical time. Sperm can be frozen in advance so that if collection becomes a problem on the day sperm are needed, the frozen sample can be thawed and used for procedures like IUI, IVF or ICSI.

Low sperm count: When sperm counts are critically low, sperm can be frozen for use if the fresh sample does not contain enough sperm for the planned procedure.

When men will be absent: Sperm freezing enables the female partner to move forward with her fertility treatments even if her male partner is out of town due to work, deployment or unforeseen events.

Ejaculatory dysfunction: When specimen collection is difficult due to ejaculatory dysfunction, sperm can be stored in advance of when they are needed. If ejaculation is not possible on the day sperm are needed, the frozen specimen can be thawed.

Reasons to freeze sperm for the long term

High-risk occupations: Men whose work exposes them to chemicals, radiation, extreme heat, military combat or other high-risk conditions may consider storage of sperm because these exposures or unintentional injuries can severely reduce sperm number and/or quality.

Cancer or other chronic medical condition: Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer or other chronic disease can have a significant adverse effect on sperm quantity and quality. Sperm freezing prior to these treatments can preserve future fertility.

Gender transition: Preserving sperm before hormonal or surgical gender transition can protect an individual’s ability to try for a biological child in the future.

Ejaculatory dysfunction: Sperm number and quality may decrease over time when ejaculation can’t occur, such as with spinal cord injuries. Cryopreserving sperm ensures that sperm will be available when it’s time to start a family.

Before a vasectomy: Sperm freezing before vasectomy can preserve fertility and prevent the need for future procedures if personal circumstances change and the desire for children is renewed.

Contact us to arrange for a new patient consultation with our San Antonio fertility specialists. If you have been trying to get pregnant and suspect the cause may be male infertility, our doctors have the experience and the skill to help most men successfully overcome a diagnosis of male infertility, so they can go on to father children.