Sperm banking can help your partner preserve male fertility! Know more about it

Sperm banking is a freeing and storing of sperm for people who are at risk of infertility. Here's everything you need to know and how to go about it.
Here's how sperm banking can help with male infertility. Image courtesy: Adobe stock
Updated: 12 Mar 2024, 11:32 am IST
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Procreation is a simple and natural experience for most couples, but some couples may find it difficult to conceive. A man’s fertility generally correlates directly with the quantity and quality of his sperm. If the number of sperm in the ejaculate is low or if the sperm cells are of poor quality, it will be difficult, and sometimes impossible, for a woman to get pregnant with that sperm. Just like women, men also have biological clocks and experience an age-driven decline in fertility. Specifically, as men age, their sperm count and motility decline, making it more difficult for fertilization to occur. Further, the DNA quality of sperm also deteriorates, thereby increasing the risk of transmitting genetic mutations to the foetus that may lead to developmental problems in the child. While these may be some hurdles, there is one solution that may address these issues -sperm banking.

What is sperm banking?

Sperm cryopreservation or sperm banking is a means to ensure male fertility. The practice of banking sperm is now considered to be a promising method of having a child for men who are at risk of declining fertility. There are several reasons for semen banking. Some sportsmen who might be at risk of getting injured protect their future against the chance of infertility with sperm banking. Men undergoing sterilization by vasectomy prefer to store sperm before the procedure in case they may one day choose to father another child. Cancer treatment involving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery may pose a threat to future fertility hence, patients receiving cancer treatments are urged to bank their sperm before these procedures. The reasons for sperm banking are countless, and it can help men

Also Read: 7 tips millennial men can follow to improve fertility

Healthy relationship through a fertility journey
Sperm fertility will make you fertile. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

When to consider sperm banking?

1. Delayed parenthood

It is generally true that marriage and parenthood are pushed forward in age as society improves in education, employment, and markers of individual aspiration and freedom. This trend, also seen in India, means that individuals choose to start families long past their reproductive primes. The sperm produced in men during their 20s is far less likely to carry genetic mutations and other abnormalities than that in their 40s and 50s. Banking of healthy sperm helps ensure any children they may have in the future are as healthy as possible.

2. Cancer diagnosis

Many commonly used treatments for cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may permanently affect men’s ability to father children. It is thus important to consult a doctor on the risks of sterility or infertility before any form of cancer treatment can commence. Cancer experts often strongly recommend sperm banking before these procedures to avoid future sterility risks.

3. Undergoing testicular, prostate, or similar surgery

Any surgery involving reproductive organs is bound to carry a risk of sterility. The option to store semen before impending surgery serves as a fallback in preserving a man’s reproductive abilities.

4. Before undergoing vasectomy

Vasectomy is still considered a method of birth control in men. Many prefer the peace of mind that comes from banking their semen prior to a vasectomy. This safeguard provides these men the option of fulfilling fertility needs if required in future.

5. While undergoing infertility treatment

By storing semen prior to fertility procedures, the availability of sperm samples at critical times is ensured. Many men have difficulties in producing semen samples on demand probably due to stress or anxiety. In such situations, prior storage of semen is helpful.

6. If the partner is not available when needed

While undergoing fertility treatment, due to unavoidable reasons, if a male partner is not available during the day of the fertility procedure, one may consider storing his semen samples in advance in the semen bank and the frozen sperm may be made available for the treatment.

7. High-risk workplace

Certain so-called ‘high-risk’ occupations may pose a threat to the male reproductive system and possible infertility. Hence, semen banking is an added measure of protecting the future of the following individuals:

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  • People who work in radiation or nuclear units.
  • Workers with environmental pollutants.
  • Men who are prone to falls/accidents such as police, fire-force, and construction workers which could damage their gonads.
  • Contact sportspersons who run a particularly high risk of injury to their testicles which may affect their fertility.
  • Men in military service.

8. Poor quality semen

Semen cryopreservation may help in treating men with poor-quality sperm. By freezing multiple ejaculates at varying periods, Fertility centres will use techniques to concentrate the semen specimens which are then pooled to increase the probability of pregnancy. Due to tremendous advancements in the field of fertility treatments (Assisted Reproductive Technology technology) which have resulted in pregnancies using very few numbers of sperm, semen banking should still be considered even in cases of very poor sperm quality.

How does semen cryo storage work?

Semen banking is a well-established technique. The semen is mixed with a mixture of chemicals to prevent any damage to the underlying genetic material. The sperm cells are then gradually brought to low temperatures using computerised equipment. Finally, frozen semen is stored at a temperature of -196 degrees C in liquid nitrogen that is constantly monitored and replenished.

On reaching such low temperatures, all the water content within the sperm cells is replaced by certain chemicals and their metabolic activities effectively grind to a halt. In this state, sperm can be maintained for several years without much damage to its function. This method is proven to provide the safest means of storage as no part of the long-term storage system is dependent on a continuous supply source like electricity. Moreover, as an added precaution, all storage tanks are inspected daily and continuously monitored by trained experts who ensure ideal storage conditions.

Whom to contact for semen banking?

You can visit any fertility clinic which offers semen banking. The doctor will ask you to collect the ejaculate in a special room meant for this purpose. You can give one or more ejaculates at an interval of 2-3 days. The number of ejaculates needed will be decided by the centre based on the quality of the semen.

Short menstrual cycle can affect fertility
Sperm banking can help improve fertility in men. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How much does it cost?

The cost of banking depends on how many years you need to preserve semen. Fertility centres generally charge Rs 2000-5000 for semen banking for a period of one to five years. The cost, terms and conditions vary from centre to centre. You may contact fertility centres to know more about the cost involved. So far, no limit has been established for how long human semen can be frozen when maintained and stored in appropriate liquid nitrogen storage. A recent report has demonstrated live birth from cryopreserved semen stored from as far as 30 years ago! Scientific literature conclusively shows that sperm quality such as motility, viability and morphology are not affected significantly by proper long-term cryopreservation.

Banking the sperm is like a fertility insurance policy, allowing you to live your life the way you want to now.

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About the Author

Dr Satish Kumar Adigaheads the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Embryology at Kasturba Medical College Hospital, Manipal. His exceptional contributions have earned him prestigious accolades, notably the Dr. Subash Mukherjee national award presented by the Indian Council of Medical Research. ...Read More

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