The freezing of sperm is a widely used technique which allows men to preserve fertility.
Semen cryopreservation – otherwise referred to sperm banking or sperm freezing – allows men to store semen in sperm banks for potential assisted human reproduction treatments in the future.
Sperm freezing can be fundamental to patients who might not have been able to become parents without fertility treatment.
Who is semen cryopreservation for?
1. Oncological patients
The freezing of semen, as previously outlined, permits the conservation of fertility in men, including those likely to be affected by radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments. It is therefore necessary to freeze patient samples prior the commencement of treatment because quality will be altered by radiation. Once oncological treatment has been concluded, and in the case of infertility as a result of such procedure, frozen sperm samples can be used in assisted human reproduction techniques.
2. Patients undergoing a vasectomy
Patients deciding to have a vasectomy can freeze semen samples in the event they decide to become parents in the future as semen cryopreservation can facilitate future assisted human reproduction treatments.
3. Patients with low quality of sperm
It is advisable for patients with low sperm motility or a fluctuation between azoospermia and severe oligospermia (sperm count) to freeze semen samples prior to assisted human reproduction treatment in order to ensure valid spermatozoa is available to fertilise eggs after follicular puncture.
4. Patients who have difficulty in obtaining a sample
Semen cryopreservation permits men who cannot be present at the moment of artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation due to personal, psychological or professional reasons to not only undergo such treatments with greater comfort, but also deliver a greater quality of sample – including those obtained through testicular biopsy or Fertile Chip.
5. Sperm donors
Spanish legislation requires potential sperm donors to undergo rigorous analysis prior to being medically authorised to provide samples to aspiring couples. The freezing of sperm guarantees the absence of infection as donated samples due to detailed prior inspection.
The process of freezing sperm
The freezing of sperm is a simple and routine procedure, although adheres to medical guidelines to ensure optimum samples are provided.
To safeguard laboratory samples, the patient must provide updated serologies prior to freezing sperm. Furthermore, before the sample is cryopreserved, seminal quality will be assessed by means of a seminogram in order to determine its viability once defrosted.
The sole requirement for sperm freezing is the existence of spermatozoa.
Frozen Semen results
- If the sample is of good quality
Despite the possible alteration of various parameters, such as the spermatozoa count or mobility, after thawing, sperm cryopreservation does not affect the success rate of potential future treatments.
- If the sample is not of low quality
If the sample is of low quality, an alteration of various parameters will be clear and can compromise the results of future treatments due to lack of determined spermatozoa mobility.
Despite potential detrimental factors, there are studies which suggest the results assisted human reproduction treatments using Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection – abbreviated to ICSI – and frozen sperm do not get deteriorate.