Sperm Cryopreservation


Sperm cryopreservation is a routine procedure of freezing sperm with the intent of storing sperm for future assisted reproduction procedures.


Cryopreservation may be considered for any of the following reasons:


  • Intrauterine insemination. If the male partner will not be available at the time IUI is scheduled.

  • IVF/ICSI Back-up. If the male partner has a critically low sperm count, it may be recommended by your physician to store semen prior to the procedure to assure there will be an adequate amount of sperm.

  • Potential Collection Issues. If medical or psychological issues make collection of sperm difficult, it is necessary to process semen specimens within one hour of collection. Some men are uncomfortable or unable to collect specimens within normal time specifications.

  • Directed Donation. If a man is providing sperm for a directed donation to be used in IUI or IVF/ICSI, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires screening of infectious diseases within 7 days of the collection of the specimen to be used for the procedure. To avoid the possibility of testing not being completed within 7 days, your physician may recommend semen cryopreservation and advance testing.

  • Impending Medical Treatment. Men who require chemotherapy or radiation treatment face the high probability that such treatments will render them sterile. Your physician may recommend having semen specimens stored prior to treatment in the event future children may be desired. To learn more, visit sperm storage for fertility preservation.


HOW IS THE SAMPLE PRESERVED?
When the first specimen is received by the Andrology Laboratory, a complete semen analysis is performed. Then a buffer is added to protect the sperm during the freezing process. The specimen is split into several small vials and placed into an instrument that cools the specimen at a controlled rate until it reaches a temperature of -196°C. In this frozen state, the specimens are stored in liquid nitrogen tanks. The number of vials that are cryopreserved will vary depending of the volume of the ejaculate and the number of sperm in the specimen.


It is recommended that at least three to five semen specimens be stored to optimize the chances of initiating a pregnancy in the future. Since two to three days of sexual abstinence is recommended between ejaculates, the process will take one to two weeks to complete.


HOW WELL DO THE SPERM SURVIVE THE FREEZING PROCESS?
Usually 50-60 percent of the sperm retain motility when thawed. However, this will vary depending on the quality of the semen and the freezing capability of the individual specimen. Poor quality specimens do not freeze as well as normal semen specimens. An analysis report of the pre-freeze and post-thaw parameters will be sent to the referring physician.


HOW TO ATTEMPT PREGNANCY WITH CRYOPRESERVED SPERM?
The insemination of thawed sperm is performed by a physician by artificial insemination around the time of ovulation. This can be either intra-cervical insemination or inter-uterine insemination. A specimen used for inter-uterine insemination must be washed before it can be inseminated. Ovulation monitoring is required during the desired month of conception with insemination of the cryopreserved sperm at the appropriate time.


Depending on the specimen parameters, one or more vials of cryopreserved sperm may be used for each insemination. As a guideline, at least 20 million motile sperm should be used to provide a reasonable chance of initiating a pregnancy. Even under optimal conditions, the chance of conceiving is approximately 20% per ovulation cycle. Factors such as sperm concentration, motility and morphology, the woman’s age and her reproductive health are important in considering the chances of initiating a pregnancy. In many instances, the number of live sperm before and after cryopreservation is low, which can substantially reduce the chance of initiating a pregnancy by artificial insemination.


Currently, more advanced reproductive technologies such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are highly successful in establishing pregnancy using only a few sperm. Although these procedures are costly, it is important that these options are reviewed prior to making a decision on the disposition of cryopreserved specimens regardless of the quantity of the sperm. It is recommended that a fertility specialist be consulted prior to using the cryopreserved sperm for this procedure since there is a limited amount of sperm available.


If inseminations are planned to be performed by physicians outside of the Richmond area please contact the Andrology Laboratory at (804) 323-9980 to discuss transport options.


PROCEDURE FOR CRYOBANKING SPERM
Call the Andrology Laboratory at (804) 323-9980, select option 1, to arrange an appointment

  1. Appointments are available Monday through Friday.
  2. Two to seven days of sexual abstinence prior to the appointment is recommended to ensure optimal sperm numbers.
  3. It is recommended that the first sample for cryopreservation be collected at Virginia IVF & Andrology Center. Prior to collection, the patient will need to thoroughly wash both hands and genitals with the E-Z Scrub Hexachlorophene scrub/soap. All soap residue should be removed from both hands and genitals by rinsing well with tap water. Hands and genitals should be dried with the sterile towels provided (taking caution not to touch the tip of the penis). The sample should then be collected by masturbation, into the sterile plastic specimen cup that has been provided by Virginia IVF & Andrology Center.
  4. On the initial visit it will be necessary to fill out a patient information form and a signed consent which constitutes our legal agreement to freeze and store; as well as, instructions concerning the future disposition of any unused sperm.


COSTS
Patients will be charged for cryopreservation of each semen specimen. This cost includes a semen analysis and a post-thaw analysis on the initial specimen. In addition, there will be a monthly storage fee. Monthly storage, which is billed quarterly, will continue until a written, notarized authorization for disposal of the specimens is received in the Andrology Laboratory. Payment is due at the time of service. Please contact Virginia IVF and Andrology Center if cryopreservation is needed on short notice due to impending medical treatment and payment is a concern.


REQUIREMENTS

  • A written order is required from a physician.
  • Schedule an appointment by calling (804) 323-9980, select option 1, between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM Monday-Friday.
  • It is recommended that the first sample for cryopreservation be collected at Virginia IVF & Andrology Center. During this initial visit it will be necessary to fill out a patient information form and a signed consent which constitutes our legal agreement to freeze and store; as well as, instructions concerning the final disposition of your sperm.