Why do people freeze sperm? How does the process affect sperm quality? Can I freeze sperm for IVF? Is it expensive? Does insurance cover it? We cover all this and more.

 

By urologist Dr. Andrew Sun

Freezing sperm can be a great solution for couples or individuals who want to preserve their ability to conceive until they decide to have a family. There are a lot of variables that one may consider to freeze their sperm, and it's ideal to explore various options and familiarize yourself with the process before making a decision.

Common reasons to freeze sperm

  • Fertility treatments: IUI and IVF are both treatments that can assist women in the TTC phase, but there’s another crucial component that’s needed: sperm! One way the egg can be fertilized during this process is by using previously frozen sperm. Frozen sperm is a great solution when there is concern that sperm count will be low in a fresh sample, as it allows for a back-up option on the day of fertilization. Using a frozen sample also gives some timing flexibility as the sample would have been given in advance of the procedure!
  • Desire to delay conception: Age is a factor that can affect male fertility. When it comes to age and fertility, the pressure is usually placed on the female biological clock, but age plays a role for men, too. Freezing your sperm is an opportunity to delay sperm aging until you’re ready to start trying. In general, it’s also suggested that men with low sperm count should freeze their sperm if they’d like to conceive in the future. If you’re planning to freeze your sperm, we recommend supplementing with a prenatal for men beforehand to ensure maximum sperm viability.
  • Infertility due to illness: Freezing sperm may be an option for men that may become infertile due to various illnesses. Cancer resulting in chemotherapy treatment may cause quality issues in sperm which is why men may consider freezing their sperm before they undergo treatment. 
  • Vasectomy: The same can be suggested for men undergoing a vasectomy. Freezing sperm before a vasectomy gives the option to conceive later on.

About the sperm freezing process

If you decide to freeze your sperm or would like more information, it’s best to talk with your doctor or a urologist. They’ll be able to refer you to a local fertility specialist or sperm bank that will help to facilitate the process. There are multiple options available that allow you to feel as comfortable as possible. At-home options are becoming more popular among men that decide to freeze their sperm due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically, ejaculated semen is all that is needed to freeze sperm. However, there are more in depth procedures where the sperm can be directly extracted from the testicles or epidiymis. While certainly much more invasive, this is an appropriate option for some men either as a part of the IVF process, or if sperm counts are extremely low, or if the man has a blockage in the pipes and does expel sperm in the ejaculate (a condition called obstructive azoospermia).

Prior to collecting a sample, your physician may conduct some bloodwork to test for various STDs like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV. These STDs can be transmitted through semen, so it’s best to get an understanding of your status before the procedure! Your physician may also suggest abstaining from ejaculation or sexual intercourse two to three days prior to when the sample is collected to build up the quantity of sperm

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What are the benefits of freezing sperm?

Freezing your sperm can be very beneficial for any male who would like to preserve fertility for the future. It’s a valid option to ensure sperm quality over a long period of time. Sperm quality can fluctuate due to a lot of factors that include illnesses, age, or injuries. Freezing your sperm may lessen your worries of experiencing future infertility!

The process is convenient. Freezing your sperm is usually non-invasive, and the sperm is taken from an ejaculated sample. The entire process of freezing your sperm can be done over the course of just a few days. Due to the simplicity, the treatment can be affordable especially when compared to procedures to preserve female fertility.

It’s safe! Sperm banking has been used in fertility treatments for decades, and the technology is only improving. There are an array of options that you can choose from to ensure your privacy is protected and you’re comfortable. Healthy babies have been born from frozen samples and show no sign of increased birth defects than when conceived through sexual intercourse.

How much does sperm freezing cost?

Sperm freezing is not cheap, and usually not covered by insurance. Costs vary, but are generally under $1,000 for collection (including testing) and around $150-$200 per year for storage. Some people opt to have sperm stored in two locations, in case of power outages and backup generator failure (unfortunately, it has happened). 

What are the negatives?

Nothing is guaranteed. It’s possible, especially in males with low sperm count, when the sample is thawed that no sperm are found. There’s no research that shows sperm quality is reduced during the freezing process.

Insurance may not cover the treatment. While freezing your sperm can be inexpensive when compared to treatments for females, the cost of sperm banking can add up depending on the number of samples frozen and for how long. The cost can also be high. Typically, annual storage fees are incurred after the initial sample is given.

Takeaways

  • Sperm quality is important when trying to conceive. Freezing your sperm is a way for men to preserve their fertility for years. 
  • Anyone with concerns about future fertility, with low sperm count, or who has been diagnosed with cancer and is facing chemotherapy or other various illnesses should consider freezing their sperm. 
  • While freezing a sample is a convenient way to retain sperm quality, nothing is guaranteed. It’s important to understand that while this process has not proven to harm the sperm, it’s possible that there may be no sperm found in the sample when it’s thawed. 
  • Your doctor or urologist can refer you to local sperm banks or fertility specialists to help with the process, or there are many at-home options if you’d like more privacy!