Most infertility clinics offer sperm freezing (sperm cryopreservation) as an additional infertility treatment for their patients. This is a relatively straightforward procedure that may be required in combination with other treatments such as IVF with ICSI (microinjection) or Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI).
One of the main benefits of sperm freezing is that it can be thawed as it is required. This is particularly useful when a couple is trying to orchestrate a fertility procedure that requires both of them and careful timing. There is no limit on how long sperm can be frozen.
It also allows couples multiple opportunities for fertilization without going through the sperm retrieval process again. Microdissection TESE, percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA) and testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) are all surgical procedures that men need to undergo in order to obtain sperm that is not present in the ejaculate.
If the sperm was obtained naturally before being frozen, it may decrease in quality after it is thawed. Some sperm cells are damaged during the freezing process or simply do not survive it. If the sperm was obtained surgically, the quality will depend on the type of sperm that was retrieved. For example, epididymal sperm is good but testicular sperm tend to decrease in motility after being thawed.
You must actively communicate with the clinic so they can notify you when your storage period is coming to an end or if there are any other issues. In most cases, they will destroy your frozen sperm if they cannot reach you in the appropriate time.
The sperm freezing procedure has a number of stages. These will be explained to you by your doctor or infertility specialist so you understand each step of the way. The procedure does not change depending on the quality or quantity of the sperm and the thawing process is also universal.
The cost of sperm freezing varies from place to place. Certain related expenses are included in the total (infection screening, lab analysis of sperm sample, storage for the first year) while others are not (additional tests or treatments, storage of the sample after the first year). The cost of sperm freezing abroad is often cheaper than it is in countries such as the United States or United Kingdom.
· A man who is going to undergo a type of medical treatment that will affect his fertility, for example, chemotherapy and radiation therapy
· A man who needs to take medication that will adversely affect his fertility, for example, steroids and antihypertensive
· A good candidate for sperm freezing would be a man who is about to undergo a vasectomy. This way he can still have children at a later date.
· A man who has a low sperm count or unhealthy sperm and whose sperm is decreasing in quantity and quality over time
· Someone who is unable to produce a sample of sperm on the day that it is required. This may be because he has trouble doing it on demand or a schedule that prevents him from providing a fresh sample when it is needed
· A man who has recently undergone a vasectomy reversal may be a good candidate for sperm freezing. This is because there is a chance that the reattached sperm ducts will scar and become blocked over time
· Men who work in high risk occupations but who still want to have children. They may be in the police force or military so serious injury or death is an event they would have to seriously consider. Special posthumous consent forms will have to be filled out before the sperm freezing is carried out.
· Men with a family history of premature andropause (male menopause). Andropause is associated with a decrease in the production of testosterone and as a result, sperm cells.
· Some men are away from home for long periods of time. Their wives or partners may desire fertility treatment during this time.
The sperm freezing procedure (sperm cryopreservation) involves a number of steps. These may take a few days or a few weeks to complete depending on where you go.
The first thing you need to do is have a consultation with a doctor or infertility specialist who will explain the sperm freezing procedure. You will then endure a blood test to check for any infectious diseases. These include HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. A genetic screening test is also used to check for any genetic disorders.
Once these are clear, you will produce a sample of fresh sperm (3-5 days after your last ejaculation) which will be analyzed for various characteristics such as motility, morphology and count.
Typically, men are able to produce sperm at the clinic without extra assistance. There are, however, a variety of collection techniques that can be employed if necessary, at home or at the clinic ( penile vibratory stimulation (PVS), collection condom).
If you need to undergo sperm retrieval procedures such as Microdissection TESE, percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA) or testicular sperm aspiration (TESA), the sperm will be obtained, processed and then frozen.
Your sperm will be washed to ensure that only the most motile sperm are preserved. To inhibit the sperm cells from developing frostbite during the sperm freezing procedure, a special solution will be added to them after the washing.
Sperm cells are frozen and stored in glass or plastic tubes that look like straws or vials. They will be kept in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius. When you are ready to use the sperm, it will slowly be thawed at room temperature a few hours before the fertilization procedure you and your partner have decided on.
Although it is not guaranteed that any sperm sample (frozen or fresh) will lead to a pregnancy, most people find that the overall success rate of using frozen sperm is much the same as the success rate of using fresh sperm. Children born as a result of sperm freezing have not shown to have a higher rate of birth defects, nor have any long term effects been identified.