Sperm freezing has been available for many years and, as with egg freezing, is used routinely for various reasons. Here too the advancements in the field of cryobiology have improved the long-term viability of sperm following freezing. Simultaneously, recent advances in the field of oncology, urology, and reproductive biology are providing men with low sperm counts and/or facing possible sterilization with new options regarding their reproductive capabilities. These male patients may want to consider the option of semen freezing (sperm freezing) and storage prior to proceeding with any medical procedure that may result in the loss of fertility. In most instances the availability of their frozen sperm obviates the need to use a sperm donor.
Why Sperm Freezing
Low Sperm Count
In male patients diagnosed with oligospermia (low sperm count), storing semen specimens and then using multiple samples in one intrauterine insemination (IUI) may increase the chance of pregnancy.
Prior to Vasectomy
The option to store semen prior to vasectomy can preserve the man’s fertility potential and prevent the need for reversal surgery in the event that circumstances change during the man’s lifetime.
Freezing a sperm sample at the time of a vasectomy reversal has become a standard practice as it provides a fallback option in the event that the reversal procedure is unsuccessful (as often happens when the vasectomy has occurred 10 or more years before the reversal).
Prior to Cancer-Related Therapies
Advances in the treatment of lymphomas, testicular, and other types of cancer have improved the prognosis for many cancer patients. However, these same therapies (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) frequently render male patients infertile. Semen cryopreservation (freezing) prior to the initiation of treatment offers the possibility of retaining reproductive capabilities.
Prior to an IVF, GIFT, or ZIFT Procedure
For couples undergoing assisted reproductive procedures (ART), such as IVF (in vitro fertilization), GIFT (gamete intra-fallopian transfer), or ZIFT (zygote intra-fallopian transfer), on the day of egg retrieval, a sperm sample is needed in order to fertilize the eggs. In some cases, men have difficulty providing a sample, or the sample provided is low or inadequate. The availability of frozen sperm as a backup relieves much of the anxiety and ensures the best possible outcome.
Mounting evidence suggests an increased risk of birth defects associated with advanced paternal age. Freezing of sperm before the age of 50 increases the potential for a normal reproductive outcome.
Regular Exposure to Hazardous Materials
Recent studies have shown that on-the-job exposure to radiation and/or hazardous materials (such as lead, herbicides, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals) or potential testicular injury (in the case of male athletes) can have profound health consequences, including male infertility. Freezing a semen sample insures the availability of normal sperm in the future.
Couples seeking fertility therapy occasionally find themselves limited by the male partner’s schedule and his absence at the most critical time of the woman’s cycle. This often leads to frustration and increased stress. The availability of frozen sperm allows the treatment process to continue without interruption even in the husband’s absence.