Sperm freezing is the most successful method of preserving a man’s fertility so he can try and have children at a later date. It's also used to store sperm so it can be used in someone else's treatment. Find out more about what sperm freezing involves and how long you can store your sperm for.
What is sperm freezing?
Men are able to freeze their sperm for use in their own future treatment or to donate to someone else’s treatment. Donated sperm usually has to be stored for six months first in order to screen the donor for infections (unless the clinic uses a process called Nucleic Acid Testing [NAT], which is quicker but not recommended by professional bodies.)
Is sperm freezing right for me?
You may want to consider freezing your sperm if:
- You have a condition, or are facing medical treatment for a condition that may affect your fertility.
- You are about to have a vasectomy and want sperm available in case you change your mind about having (more) children.
- You have a low sperm count or the quality of your sperm is deteriorating.
- You have difficulty producing a sperm sample on the day of fertility treatment.
- You are at risk of injury or death (for example, you’re a member of the Armed Forces who is being deployed to a war zone).
- If you're a male transitioning to a female you may want to preserve your fertility before you start hormone therapy or have reconstructive surgery. Both treatments can lead to the partial or total loss of your fertility.
How does sperm freezing work?
Firstly, your sperm will need to be tested for any infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. This has no bearing on whether you can freeze your sperm or not but is to ensure that affected sperm samples are stored separately to prevent contamination of other samples.
You’ll then need to give your written, informed consent to your sperm being stored and specify how long you want it to be stored for.
At the clinic, you’ll be asked to produce a fresh sample of sperm (if you’re able), which will be frozen and mixed with a special fluid (a cryoprotectant) to protect the sperm from damage during freezing. The samples are then cooled slowly and plunged into liquid nitrogen.
Before freezing, the sperm sample is usually divided between a number of containers called straws. This means that not all the sperm needs to be thawed at once and can be used in multiple treatments.