There is a way of freezing your semen for future use by using a process called cryopreservation. The facility that collects, stores and freezes that sperm for you is called a sperm cryobank.
Why should you know about this? Well, if you're about to undergo a treatment or take medications that may affect your sperm production, it's a thought you might want to consider.
On This Page:
- You will be undergoing a treatment for cancer that may impair your sperm production or quality (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation).
- You will be taking any ongoing medications that may impair your sperm production or quality (e.g., sulfasalazine, methotrexate).
- You will be undergoing any procedure that could affect your testes or prostate, or your ability to ejaculate (e.g., prostate resection, colon surgery, or retroperitoneal lymph node dissection).
- You have a medical condition that is beginning to affect your ability to ejaculate (e.g., multiple sclerosis, diabetes).
- You are undergoing a vasectomy.
- You are entering a line of work where you may be introduced to reproductive toxins.
- As part of your infertility treatment, you will be undergoing a procedure where sperm may be easily harvested (e.g., vas reconstruction, testicular biopsy). These sperm can then be stored and used later in conjunction with advanced reproductive techniques if alternative infertility treatments do not prove successful.
These are just some examples of why you'd want to consider banking your sperm. There may be others. But our advice is that you discuss this issue with your doctor.
M.A.Z.E. Laboratories is a proud member of LIVESTRONG's Sharing Hope Program. As a participating center in the Sharing Hope Program, M.A.Z.E. Laboratories works with LIVESTRONG to increase access to fertility preservation services for cancer patients. To apply or for more information, please visit www.livestrong.org/fertilehope.
HOW IT WORKS
You might want to know what the process is like. It's actually pretty simple and straightforward. It is not time consuming and you don't have to set up a lot of appointments. Although the process differs slightly between cryobanks, the basic procedure remains similar:
- You set up an appointment to meet with a lab representative who reviews Your case history and medical background. You'll fill out necessary paperwork.
- Many labs require an initial test freeze of the sperm before actually Conducting the banking. There are labs require that you return for a second appointment, while others conduct the tests and banking during your first visit.
- You may be given a choice of producing a specimen at home or at the lab site. If you choose to collect at a laboratory, you will be given a private room. Visual material may be made available to you. If you choose to collect at home, you will be given clear and exact instructions.
- You may choose to bank sperm from one ejaculation (one collection yields one to six vials of sperm). However, in most cases, it is desirable to bank more ejaculates. On average, patients bank three, as the quality of the sperm often necessitates using more than one vial of sperm for each attempt to achieve a pregnancy. If you choose to bank more ejaculates, you can do so by setting up further appointments for future collections. Ideally, you should leave a minimum of two days between appointments to build up your sperm count.
- The sperm is frozen for as long as you choose to maintain it.
- When you are ready to use the sperm, you notify the bank in writing. The bank then releases the specimen, shipping it to whatever physician you request.
- When and if you want the specimens destroyed, most facilities will do so
only with notarized instructions from you.
FREEZING THE SPERM
Your sperm is frozen stored in extremely cold temperatures (-196 F), but in order to ensure that the fewest possible sperm are damaged, the freezing must be gradual. Generally, the following procedure is followed:
- If your sperm hasn't been previously tested, a comprehensive semen analysis should be performed on the first specimen in order to give you a complete picture of your sperm quantity and quality. You should make sure that your sperm bank conducts a thorough semen analysis before banking. This will give you significant information on the quality of the sperm.
- Each subsequent specimen is analyzed prior to freezing to assess total number of moving sperm.
- Once it's analyzed, it's divided into smaller batches and transferred into vials for freezing. A special compound (acryoprotectant) is added to aid the freezing process.
- The test tubes are gradually frozen in liquid nitrogen vapor, letting the sperm freeze slowly. After 30 to 60 minutes, they are transferred into liquid nitrogen tanks for permanent frozen storage.
- After a minimum of 48 hours have elapsed from the time of the initial freezing, an initial "test sample" is thawed and tested again to ascertain from each specimen how well the sperm survived the freezing. After the banking is complete, the results may be sent to you or discussed with your primary care physician. This information will be important to determine which specimen vials to thaw for an insemination.
Each sample is stored in its own specially marked storage unit. There are cryobanks that split the specimens, storing half of any individual's specimens in two separate nitrogen tanks in case of tank malfunction. Some may actually store the two tanks on separate physical sites in case of an unforeseeable disaster to the building in which a tank is stored. The nitrogen tanks are checked daily for temperature and liquid nitrogen leakage.