Freezing your sperm, a viable solution for becoming a father

Sperm freezing is one of the many alternatives available to those who wish to become parents and seek to avoid fertility problems in the future. This alternative has two precise objectives. Firstly, it can be used to help couples or women with fertility problems who decide to resort to a donor in order to become pregnant. Secondly, it allows to preserve the fertility of men who do not wish to be parents at this very moment and who fear seeing their fertility eventually compromised as may be the case, for example, with age or in cancer patients. In the same way, a man who wishes to opt for co-parenthood can resort to this technique while he finds the right co-parent for his future child.

How does it work?

Sperm freezing is a process that allows the preservation of spermatozoa for long periods of time so that they can be used later by means of assisted reproduction techniques. This process does not affect the quality of the spermatozoa or their fertilizing capacity.

There are two techniques that are usually used in laboratories. The first is sperm freezing, which consists of a cryogenic process, in other words, it is a slow freezing process that involves adding a series of cryoprotective substances in order to avoid damage at the cellular level. As a result, the temperature is progressively lowered to -196° C and the semen is stored in liquid nitrogen.

The second technique is known as cryopreservation or sperm vitrification. It is a much more recent technique and is characterized by reducing the freezing time to about 30 minutes. In the same way, there are those who suggest that the devitrification process is less likely to cause damage to the spermatozoa when compared to the thawing process. Apart from perhaps a couple of technical details, this technique acts in the same way since it keeps the spermatozoa in suspension at low temperatures (between -80° C and -160° C). 

Thanks to these techniques the spermatozoa will not be significantly affected in their quality nor will they have a limited storage time if they are properly handled.

Good reasons for freezing

Unlike egg freezing, there is no age limit for sperm freezing. As long as it is in a healthy state, with a good sperm count and quality, vitrification or freezing remains a possibility. But other than that, it’s your personal motivations (which can be very different) that will have the final say when deciding whether you want to freeze your sperm. These can include:

  • Potential fertility problems linked to a medical condition or procedure. Without a doubt, there are many patients who without this type of procedure would not have the possibility of becoming parents. This is the case of patients who are required to undergo certain treatments to fight a disease, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Patients who undergo voluntary procedures such as a vasectomy or even a sex reassignment surgery and who, as a precaution, decide to freeze some samples in case they wish to become parents in the future. It can also be a viable solution for patients with psychological conditions that may cause ejaculation problems.
  • Willing to become a donor. Maybe you want to help someone who cannot have children, maybe you are thinking of having descendants, but you do not want to have a family per se or whatever other reasons you may have. You can always turn to a sperm bank and propose yourself as a donor. After a series of tests and if everything is in order, your sperm will be frozen and you will have made someone with fertility problems very happy.
  • Lifestyle. This is a factor that is becoming increasingly common in modern societies. With the world growing faster and people managing more and more things every day, some people may find that they have a desire to become parents, but for career reasons or because they have to deal with certain immediate obligations, they must put off their family plans for later, as is the case with a wide variety of highly competitive jobs. In addition, high-risk professions (such as a military career) can lead men to freeze their sperm in order to have a guarantee to have children in the future in case they are faced with infertility resulting from the risks of their occupation.
  • You haven’t found the right person. There are basically two situations that can arise. One is, if you want your family project that includes a romantic relationship and you have not yet found the love of your life.  The second is, if you want to have a child with the help of a co-parent and have not yet found the right person to fulfill your dreams of becoming a parent. In the first case, we can’t give you much advice, we can only wish you to find that special person for you. If you identify better with the second case, know that you can always rely on websites like Coparentalys, which are an excellent channel to contact people who are actively looking for a co-parenting partner. Finding that right person, in both cases, can take a little time, so sometimes it may be better to pause the timer and freeze your sperm while you find them. By doing so, you can always be sure that you will be able to have a biological child.
  • Getting older. Although men can have children even at a very advanced age, it’s also true that as age advances, sperm quality progressively deteriorates and tends to present problems of low sperm count, lower motility, and variations in their morphology. If you find yourself reaching one of those stages where you start to wonder if maybe it’s too late to have children, this solution can grant you a little more time to reflect while maintaining the same fertility you have today.

What kind of results should I expect?

Initially, a semen sample will be taken and an assessment will be made by means of a seminogram. If the sample turns out to be of good quality, the chances of success with an assisted reproduction treatment will be in your favor. Once the thawing process has been completed, there may be small changes in seminal parameters such as the number of living sperm or their motility, but none of this compromise the results to any great extent. Studies have shown that both in cases where intracytoplasmic microinjection (ICSI) and intrauterine inseminations (IUI) are used, success rates with frozen sperm remain remarkably stable. However, if we are to talk about differences, it seems that with the vitrification/devitrification technique the results are slightly better than with the traditional freezing.

How much does it cost?

The cost depends on the clinic, but prices range from 200 euros to a little less than 1,000 euros. Please note that this price may or may not include maintenance costs. Some clinics provide up to 2 years of maintenance with the initial price, but from that point on, you will have to pay regular storage fees. Many of these clinics offer specialized shipping services in case you need to relocate the samples. Since this requires a specialized transport service, which must ensure that the freezing process is not interrupted, there will be additional costs. You will need to discuss these details directly with the clinic or sperm bank of your choice.