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Whether you are facing a health diagnosis that may render you infertile or you’re simply not ready to have children right now, sperm freezing is a great way to preserve your fertility for the future. In the past, this option required a visit to a fertility clinic or sperm bank and cost thousands of dollars. But with the advent of at-home sperm freezing kits, it’s easier than ever to consider sperm storage, whether you’re hoping to hold off on having kids for a few years or a few decades.
If you’re not sure that you’re a candidate for sperm freezing, find out the many reasons people opt for this service, the importance of freezing your sperm even when you’re young and healthy, and how to freeze your sperm from the comfort of home.
Also known as sperm cryopreservation, or sperm storage, sperm freezing is the process of using liquid nitrogen to freeze one or more sperm samples and storing it for use at a later date, when healthy sperm may be harder to acquire. Frozen sperm can be thawed and used in assisted reproductive procedures like intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ISCI).
Conducting a post-thaw analysis on sperm that has been frozen is necessary to see how the sperm withstands the freezing and thawing process. Researchers have found sperm freezing results in a slight decline in sperm count and quality, including a reduction in sperm motility. But these results are mostly miniscule, as the majority of sperm (82–85%) generally survive and remain motile following sperm freezing and thawing.
The longer sperm is frozen, the more the survival rate declines, but this shouldn’t cause much worry either. A 2019 study found the slight decline in sperm’s survival rate after sperm freezing made very little difference to the pregnancy and live birth rate, with success rates comparable between 6 months of freezing and 15 years.
The primary reason for freezing your sperm is to preserve your chances of conceiving a child in the future. It is commonly chosen ahead of a medical intervention, such as cancer treatment or a gender transition procedure, which can impact a person’s ability to conceive naturally. Sperm freezing can also be used to store sperm you intend to donate for someone else’s treatment.
Sperm freezing provides flexibility for those who may want to have a child later in life. It is also beneficial for those considering gender-affirming hormone therapy, those facing a health diagnosis like cancer, and even those with high-risk occupations that may unexpectedly impair their fertility. Simply being young and healthy also makes you a good candidate for freezing your sperm, whether you know you want to have kids or not. Read on to find out who should freeze their sperm and why.
Receiving a health diagnosis that can impair fertility makes sperm freezing a crucial step in protecting your chances of conceiving a child post-treatment. One such health diagnosis is cancer.
There are a number of ways cancer can impair male fertility. Surgical removal of the testicles can damage these organs, radiation treatment and chemotherapy can damage sperm and testosterone levels, and hormone therapy can decrease the production of sperm. In some cases, these effects are reversible, but not always. In one 2018 study, only around 15% of patients recovered their sperm count or fertility after a single radiation treatment. Even without treatment, underlying malignancy may affect semen production and quality. Research shows that in testicular cancer, rates of oligospermia (low sperm count) and azoospermia (absence of sperm in the semen) at presentation are 50% and 10% respectively. Sperm freezing provides a safe and effective means of preserving fertility for cancer patients, the earlier the better.
People with dangerous jobs such as those in construction, agriculture, emergency response, or active military duty may want to freeze their sperm for the future in case they are injured and rendered infertile or mortally wounded. Researchers say some of these professions may also expose employees to toxic substances — such as pesticides, lead, metals, and petrochemicals — which can reduce sperm count or increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. If you work in a high-risk environment, it’s recommended to freeze your sperm as early as possible.
Before pursuing gender-affirming hormone therapy or undergoing transition surgery, sperm-producing trans folk should consider freezing their sperm before such procedures impair their fertility.
In this 2017 study, researchers found that, in the majority of cases, estrogen and/or anti-androgen treatment impaired spermatogenesis and resulted in physical changes to the testicles, especially when doses were higher.
In some cases, stopping hormone therapy may reverse these effects, but not always, which is why sperm freezing prior to hormone therapy is recommended. Not only does sperm freezing allow trans individuals to preserve their fertility, but it can also help them avoid needing to pause or cease their hormone treatment later on in order to conceive.
Sperm freezing is also an option for people seeking fertility treatments like IVF or IUI. Studies show frozen sperm is just as effective (or more) as “fresh” for these treatments, which can be especially useful for those with low sperm counts, who may not produce fresh semen with enough sperm on the day of their partner’s egg retrieval.
When you’re ready to use the sperm, your stored sample will be sent to the fertility clinic of your choice and thawed for the procedure.
Sperm freezing can even be beneficial for a young person who is not sure they want to have a child. Sperm is more likely to be viable when you are young and healthy. Freezing your sperm while young safeguards your fertility no matter what the future brings. This may help avoid unnecessary testing and expensive fertility treatments down the line as research shows a correlation between advanced age and low sperm quality.
Sperm freezing and storage costs vary depending on whether you visit a clinic or use an at-home sperm freezing kit, and how long you plan to store your sperm. At the Sperm Bank of California, the initial fee hovers around $1,575, with additional fees for sperm washing, tank shipment, vial retrieval, and more. Annual storage fees are around $500 a year. These fees increase further when the sperm sample is intended for a specific donor who is not a spouse or intimate partner. There are also extra fees to perform a semen analysis, which checks the key metrics of your sperm to ensure it is healthy and viable.
Legacy offers a more cost-effective, flexible approach to sperm freezing. Because the sample is produced at home and sent directly to the lab, Legacy’s at-home sperm freezing kits take the financial strain out of this process. You can also choose from a variety of options for testing and freezing your sperm, such as annual, five-year, and lifetime storage plans available at a fraction of traditional sperm freezing costs. Legacy also includes a semen analysis with your sperm freezing kit to ensure the sperm you’re freezing is healthy.
You should never attempt to freeze your sperm at home as the process requires a special lab and liquid nitrogen storage tanks. Even more, most household freezers simply don’t get cold enough — sperm must be preserved in liquid nitrogen at -196ºC to be viable in the future.
If you choose to use a fertility clinic or sperm bank to freeze your sperm, you will typically need to make an appointment, fill out paperwork, and then produce your sample in a private collection room. You should also consider having a semen analysis first to test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to secure the best chances of conceiving a child with your sperm without complications.
If you don’t want to visit a fertility clinic or are seeking a more affordable and convenient option for sperm freezing, then an at-home sperm freezing kit is a great alternative. You can still run a full sperm analysis, test for STIs, receive personalized recommendations from a fertility specialist, and choose a suitable storage plan, all from the comfort and privacy of your home.
Whether you choose to visit a fertility clinic or use an at-home sperm freezing kit, once the lab receives your sample, it’s measured to assess semen volume before being prepped for storage.
In some cases (including Legacy’s at-home sperm freezing kit), a post-thaw analysis will be performed to ensure your sperm is still viable after the freezing and thawing process.
Then your sperm is gently mixed with a cryoprotectant, a substance that draws water out of the sperm cell to prevent damage during freezing, and stored using liquid nitrogen in cryogenic vials. The sperm vials are then transferred to liquid nitrogen storage tanks to maintain their low temperature for long-term sperm storage.
At-home sperm freezing makes the process more accessible, affordable, and comfortable. Legacy’s at-home sperm freezing kit is also the only one of its kind to offer a post-thaw analysis and semen analysis with its freezing service. Even more, if you’re using Legacy, your sperm will be kept in “multi-site storage,” meaning they will be sent to multiple locations to mitigate any risk (however small) of sperm being damaged or lost. The cost of yearly multi-site cryogenic storage with Legacy is as low as $20 per sample, which is a fraction of the cost you’d expect with a traditional fertility clinic or sperm bank.
Find out more about at-home freezing and testing with Legacy today.
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