Sperm banking is the process of obtaining a semen sample from a man and then freezing and storing that sample for the purpose of achieving pregnancy down the road. Unlike freezing eggs and embryos, the process required to freeze sperm is relatively simple and straightforward.
Who should consider sperm banking?
Sperm banking has been around for decades and results in high pregnancy rates, particularly with the use of assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization.
More and more, sperm banking is being used as a backup or “insurance policy” for men with low sperm counts undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) with ICSI. In certain cases, men with low sperm counts may have no sperm at the time of their IVF procedure, so sperm banking prior to undergoing IVF has become recommended in many practices.
In addition, sperm banking is useful for men who travel extensively in their occupation. If a sperm sample is frozen, and ovulation occurs in his partner while he is out of town, the frozen specimen can be used to continue treatment on that cycle. This has been especially useful for pilots and other frequent travelers.
Sperm banking is also ideal for men who have recently been diagnosed with cancer and will undergo radiation or chemotherapy that will damage the testicular tissue that makes the sperm. In some cases, sperm production resumes following such treatments, but in many men the sperm quality is not as good as it was originally — and in some men, the sperm production may never be significant enough to result in a pregnancy. In testicular cancer, men may be faced with the prospect of losing the testicle altogether, and sperm preservation is considered critical in these cases. Freezing sperm prior to treatment is optimal, because it probably gives the best chance of having children in the future.
What happens when frozen sperm is needed?
Sperm samples can be kept for days or decades without any known adverse affect on the quality of the sample. When the sperm is desired for achieving pregnancy, the sample is thawed. Most of the sperm generally survive the thaw, although a fraction of the sample usually does not. If thawed samples contain adequate numbers of sperm, they can be used for intra uterine insemination (IUI). In cases where lower sperm counts are available in a given sample, in vitro fertilization technology can use the sperm.
Sperm banking is a time-tested and proven method of preservation male fertility. The procedure is likely to be used more and more as reproductive technologies continue to advance. The on-site lab at Fertility Associates of Memphis offers sperm and embryo cryopreservation (freezing) and storage facilities. For more information about sperm banking, please contact our office at 901-747-2229.