What is the sperm freezing process?
The sperm freezing process is a much simpler procedure than freezing a woman’s eggs.
Firstly, the man is screened for serious infectious diseases such as HIV, HTLV and Hepatitis B/C. Afterwards he will need to provide written and informed permission for his semen to be stored by the fertility clinic, and specify for how long.
At the clinic, he’ll be asked to produce a fresh sample of semen which is then frozen with a cryoprotectant such as glycerol to protect it from damage during freezing, in a process called semen cryopreservation. The sample is then cooled, frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen.
There is no limit to how long sperm can be stored for and the longest recording of cryopreserved semen is 24 years.
Why would I consider freezing my sperm?
There are a few reasons a man may want to freeze his sperm.
Medical treatments such as chemotherapy can affect the quality of a man’s sperm and cause infertility. Men who are aware of future treatments or procedures such as chemotherapy or a vasectomy may want to preserve their fertility by freezing their sperm.
Men who know they have a low sperm count or sperm that is deteriorating in quality can freeze their sperm before the quality deteriorates further.
Men who are transitioning from one gender to another, may also want to freeze their sperm for possible future use.
What causes male infertility or a low deteriorating sperm count in men?
Low sperm count, or oligozoospermia, is where a man produces less than 25 million sperm per millilitre of semen. It is relatively common. Low sperm count can make conceiving more difficult and is thought to be a factor in 1 in every 3 couples who are struggling to conceive.
Less common is the more serious azoospermia, which means there is no sperm in the semen and is normally caused by genetic issues, infections, or trauma.
Prolonged exposure to industrial chemicals such as benzenes, herbicides, paint materials and lead may contribute to a deteriorating sperm count. This is also the case with exposure to heavy metals.
High levels of radiation or X-rays can cause permanent damage to male fertility, as can overheating the testicles. Overheating can be caused by lots of seemingly innocuous activities, like wearing overly tight clothing, working in front of hot cookers, or working in the same position for prolonged periods of time.
Emotional stress or severe depression may stint the production of hormones that produce sperm. Alcohol, drugs such as steroids and cocaine, tobacco smoking, excessive weight, and occupation may also affect the health and wellbeing of a man, and in turn hinder his body’s ability to produce sperm.
Other risk factors may include medications, previous trauma to the testicles, cancer medications, celiac disease, chromosome defects, undescended testicles, hormone imbalances and infections.
A low sperm count can be caused by several factors, and while there’s many listed above, it is by no means an exhaustive list, which is why speaking to a medical professional is crucial for information specific to your situation.
If you are considering sperm freezing, please speak to one of our team for information about sperm freezing costs and further information about the process.