Cryopreservation (Sperm Freezing)

Sperm Cryopreservation or Sperm Freezing, is available for men who wish to bank sperm for future use. Many medical treatments, including several cancer therapies, can have a damaging effect on sperm quality. Although the absolute longevity of frozen sperm has yet to be determined, successful pregnancies have been achieved using sperm cryopreserved for twenty years or more. Sperm freezing allows future use of sperm in fertility treatments such as Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

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Sperm Freezing - What to Expect?

Patients are typically referred to the Andrology Laboratory for sperm cryopreservation by their care-provider. Many patients have been referred for semen storage by physicians working in specialties other than fertility and often arrive with little or no information about cryopreservation, or the use of cryopreserved samples to achieve pregnancy.

A short consultation the first visit gives patients an opportunity to ask questions and clarify anything they might want to know about these topics, as well as storing the samples long term, billing and other aspects prior to sample collection and signing the Semen Storage Agreement. Additionally, patients are always welcome to call with additional questions or clarifications.

How Cryopreservation is Performed

After a semen sample has been collected, it is placed on a warming block maintained at 37°C, to liquefy. At this time, the semen sample is mixed in a 1:1 ratio with a freezing medium that allows the sperm to survive the freezing and storage process. The semen and freezing medium mixture is divided up into one milliliter portions and placed in special containers called cryovials. The freezing medium used contains cyroprotectants. Cryoprotectants are chemicals that help remove water from the cells being frozen. If the water is not removed from the sperm, ice crystals will form inside of the cell and break up it up, resulting in cell death.

Semen samples are slowly frozen in liquid nitrogen vapors. Once the samples have been frozen in the liquid nitrogen vapors, they are placed in special containers where they are stored in the liquid nitrogen until they are needed. There is a considerable amount of variability, but each ejaculate typically yields from one to six vials. Each vial of a patient’s semen sample is labeled with the patient’s name, the date, and a unique number recorded on the side. This information will be used to catalog the semen sample into the storage facility.

Test Thaw Procedure

The survival rate of sperm after cryopreservation is highly variable. In situations where loss of a small portion of the semen is not critical, it is recommended that one of the cryovials be thawed to assess how successfully an individual’s semen can be stored and thawed.

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