What is sperm banking or freezing sperm?
Freezing sperm (sperm banking) is an option for men who are not yet ready or able to have a child but who want to give themselves the option of doing so in the future. Sperm freezing is the most successful method of preserving a man’s fertility so he can try and have a child(ren) at a later date. One of the primary reasons many men freeze their sperm is if they develop a condition which puts their ability to father children at risk. Cancer treatments, for instance, can lead to infertility in men. Rather than not ever have children, a man may choose to freeze his sperm until he was ready to do so. If a man loses his battle against cancer, his wife or significant other, has the option of using his sperm to have children in the future. It's also used to store sperm so it can be used in someone else's treatment.
Why freeze or bank sperm?
Unfortunately, life happens. Bad things occur when we least expect them. Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the most frightening and heartbreaking things a person can experience. Men that are diagnosed with cancer may never be able to impregnate their spouse or girlfriend after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As men get older, their sperm become less and less fertile and there is an increased risk of pregnancy complications in older men. Rather than a man simply accepting this fate and resigning himself to the fact that he will never have kids, he can be proactive and freeze his sperm while it is still healthy. As mentioned above, when this sperm is ready to use, he can have it unfrozen and use it to fertilize his significant other’s egg(s).
Men may also want to bank or freeze their sperm if they work in an industry where they are constantly exposed to materials or chemicals which may make it difficult for them to reproduce (reproductive toxins). Certain medications may also sacrifice the quality of a man’s sperm. Freezing and banking his sperm before starting this type of medication regimen is one way to ensure that he has viable sperm available to him when he needs it.
Some diseases and conditions make it difficult for a men to ejaculate, for instance, paralysis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, freezing sperm and then using it to impregnate ones’ spouse make it possible for a man to still procreate.
Here are some examples for men who consider freezing sperm:
- You have a condition such as cancer or genital surgery
- You are facing medical treatment for a condition, that may affect your fertility.
- You are about to have a vasectomy and want sperm available in case you change your mind about having (more) children.
- You have a low sperm count or the quality of your sperm is deteriorating.
- The man is getting older and wants to store younger sperm to improve fertility later on
- You have difficulty producing a sperm sample on the day of fertility treatment
- You are at risk of injury or death (for example, you’re a member of the Armed Forces who is being deployed to a war zone)
- If you're a male transitioning to a female, you may want to preserve your fertility before you start hormone therapy or have reconstructive surgery. Both treatments can lead to the partial or total loss of your fertility
The Sperm Freezing Process
The process of freezing sperm is pretty easy. After undergoing a physical, a man will be asked to provide a specimen at the lab or at home. Most men will bank at least three ejaculates. The sperm is then frozen.
No, it cannot be frozen in the refrigerator's freezer because the temperatures for successfully preserving sperms are well below refrigerator freezer temperatures. The optimal temperature for freezing sperm long time is -321 F (-196 C) while the freezer in your refrigerator has an average temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius).
Sperm can be frozen for many years. Pregnancies havd been reportd after 20 years of banking sperm. Studies have shown that after this amount of the time, the sperm’s quality begins to deteriorate.