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cryopreservation of sperm

Cryopreservation of Sperm: Male Fertility Preservation Using Semen Freezing

Infertility is a common problem that both men and women face and it can be extremely disheartening for couples that truly want to have a baby of their own. Approximately 40% to 50% of all infertility cases are caused by male factor infertility. There are a number of medical and non-medical elements that contribute to male factor infertility. Low sperm counts, slow or inadequate sperm motility, abnormal sperm morphology (defective or misshapen sperm), environmental circumstances, the decision to have children later in life, etc. can all contribute to difficulty conceiving a child.

Fortunately, there’s a solution to anticipating and preparing for unexpected future circumstances that are out of your control: male fertility preservation, also known as semen freezing or cryopreservation of sperm.

What Is Cryopreservation of Sperm and How Does It Work?

Cryopreservation of sperm is the process of collecting and preserving sperm samples for future use. Sperm samples can be stored in freezing temperatures (-196 degrees Celsius to be exact) for a number of years until you and your partner are ready to become pregnant. As long as the cold temperature and sanitized environment is maintained, there’s no expiration date for sperm preservation.

Many men choose sperm freezing as a means of preparing for unpredictable or unprecedented situations that could come up in their lives. If you’re not necessarily ready to conceive a child at this stage in your life, but are considering it for the future, then cryopreservation of sperm is a viable option to safeguard your semen until you need it.

Male Fertility Preservation: What Options Are Available to Men?

Regardless of the reason you’re considering semen freezing, there are a number of ways that sperm can be collected based on your individual needs, circumstances, and comfort level. Semen freezing, which is also commonly referred to as sperm banking, involves the male patient providing one or more viable samples of semen that are going to be preserved for future use.

Here are a few of the methods medical professionals use.

  • Ejaculation. This is the most traditional method. It involves the male patient masturbating and ejaculating into a clinical semen collection cup. This can be done in a private room at the clinic or you can arrage to do it at home as long as you’re able to get the sample back to the clinic within half an hour of ejaculation.
  • Sperm extraction procedure. If your semen doesn’t produce any sperm or viable sperm samples, then your doctor may recommend a sperm extraction procedure. This can be done through percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA), testicular sperm extraction (TESE), microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration (MESA), or micro-TESE.
  • Electroejaculation. This process involves stimulating the male organs to produce ejaculation in males who are unable to do it themselves for various medical and environmental reasons (e.g., stress, anxiety, lack of experience, etc.)
  • Semen extraction from urine. Some male cancer patients who have undergone surgical or radiation treatment might sustain damage in the nerve endings near the bladder that are responsible for carrying out ejaculation. In these cases, the body can still produce semen, but it most likely won’t ejaculate through the penis during orgasm. Retrograde ejaculation—a process where the semen flows backward into the bladder and is mixed in with urine—occurs. When this happens, fertility doctors can attempt to collect semen samples from the male patient’s urine to achieve pregnancy or preserve it for later use.

What Are Some Common Male Fertility Risk Factors?

There are a number of medical and circumstantial male fertility risk factors that can be addressed by cryopreservation of sperm.

Infertility from Cancer Treatment

Certain types of cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can lead to male factor infertility. Cancer treatment has become increasingly effective over the past few decades and new developments have improved the survival rates tremendously. Obviously, there’s still a long road ahead, but cryopreservation of sperm allows male cancer patients who want to father children in the future to keep their option open. In these cases, semen collection and freezing is done before treatment starts.

Vasectomy

While most vasectomies (not all) are reversible, many men become squeamish at the prospect of having to undergo a similar procedure twice. Plus, not all vasovasostomies are completely effective. In many cases, vasectomies can lead to the development of antibodies that specifically target, attack, and prevent the production of viable sperm. Frozen sperm helps keep your options open in case you do end up changing your mind in the future about having a child.

Preparing for Artificial Insemination or IVF Treatment

Artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization is the process of fertilizing the female partner’s egg with viable sperm outside of the body. Once the egg has been fertilized by the sperm, it’s placed back inside the uterus to bring the pregnancy to term. Some couples are given the option of freezing semen in advance in case the male partner is unable to produce a viable semen sample on the day of the insemination.

Additional or Lesser Known Risk Factors

A few additional or lesser known male infertility risk factors that may warrant consideration of cryopreservation of sperm include:
  • Participating in military service that requires a lot of travelling or puts the male’s health and life at risk
  • Gender reassignment in which individuals are born biologically male and want to preserve their semen for future use post-transition
  • Low sperm count
  • Poor sperm motility
  • Abnormal sperm morphology

Duration of Frozen Sperm Preservation, Success Rates, and Future Use

As mentioned, cryopreserved or frozen sperm doesn’t have a specific expiration date or limited shelf life. As long as it’s properly preserved, it will retain its viability indefinitely. There have been cases in which female patients have been able to successfully achieve pregnancy through IVF treatment and other types of infertility counselling using sperm samples that were more than two decades old without any issues.

Male Fertility Services at ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo

At ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo, our staff is committed to providing compassionate and caring infertility counselling and treatment to all of our patients. We pride ourselves on creating a judgement-free fertility clinic that focuses on giving our patients the best care possible while guiding them through their pregnancy journey. Contact us today to book a consultation with one of our esteemed fertility specialists.

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