By Dr Pallavi Prasad
Sperm freezing is not limited to sperm donors. People who do not have a donation plan can have one, particularly if they are not ready to have children yet, but will one day. The sperm bank procedure, also known as sperm freezing or cryopreservation, is an excellent option for couples (or singles) to protect their prospects of future conception, especially if the male partners have high-risk testicular issues like testicular cancer.
The cryopreservation process ensures sperm motility is retained indefinitely. In the future, frozen semen can be thawed and used to fertilize eggs. This can be done using artificial insemination techniques (IUI) or Assisted Reproductive Techniques (IVF/ICSI).
Who needs to freeze their sperm?
People undergoing surgery or medical procedures
If you are going to have a vasectomy, you may decide to freeze your sperm in case you change your mind about having a baby in the future.
Some medical procedures also affect ejaculation ability, so sperm freezing is generally offered prior to scheduling these procedures.
Some people, before undergoing gender reassignment surgery, may decide to do sperm freezing to preserve their chance of having their own child later.
People involved in hazardous work
If you work in a dangerous workplace or are stationed in the military, you may choose to store your sperm in the event of accidents or exposure to chemicals that can harm sperm or fertility.
Cancer patients, before receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy, should freeze their semen sample. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy might lower sperm quality or cause infertility.
If someone is diagnosed with testicular cancer or prostate cancer, he may be told that treatment may include surgery to remove one or both testicles. In fact, anyone with testicular cancer, especially teens, may wish to consider freezing their sperm before receiving treatment.
Cryopreservation of semen before fertility treatment
The purpose of freezing the semen during these fertility treatments is to ensure there is a reserve sperm sample in case the male partner cannot produce a sperm sample or is not available on the day of egg retrieval.
If the male partner is not available during days when his female partner ovulates, the frozen semen sample can be used for IUI treatment.
Other reasons for freezing sperm include:
Individuals who are commencing testosterone replacement therapy.
The right age to freeze the sperm
Anyone who is healthy and has some sperm in their semen can freeze them.
Young boys who have been diagnosed with cancer and have entered puberty are also good candidates for sperm freezing.
Those who want to donate sperm to a commercial sperm bank must be between 21 to 35 years of age, in good health, with good sperm parameters, and without any illnesses or diseases in the family.
Cost of freezing sperm in India
The cost varies from facility-to-facility and depends on the number of samples you store and the storage duration.
The life span of frozen sperm
If the sperm is correctly preserved in liquid nitrogen and is a high-quality sample, it can be frozen indefinitely. Modern cryopreservation technology is so advanced, the health and integrity of the sperms are preserved throughout the procedure. Sperm freezing has been proven to be effective for over 20 years.
(The writer is a fertility consultant at NOVA IVF Fertility, Bengaluru)