The Most Effective Ways to Preserve Sperm and Male Fertility
How Can I Preserve My Sperm and Fertility?
A wide range of factors influence fertility, making it important to understand fertility preservation options. In addition to being mindful of exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking, or drug and steroid use, the ideal way to preserve your fertility is to freeze sperm at their healthiest. If you have a medical condition, are receiving hormone therapy, or decide to have a vasectomy, you can keep your child-bearing options intact with sperm preservation. In combination with our guide on the 10 steps to improve sperm quality, freezing your sperm is sort of like an insurance policy for your fertility.
With how common male infertility is, many people are looking into proactive ways to preserve their fertility. Sperm freezing is an extension of these efforts. This article is a brief guide about the indications, methods, and benefits of this technology.
What Is Sperm Freezing?
Cryopreserving sperm or sperm freezing is the storage of sperm at cold temperatures for future use. This process is achieved by using special media like liquid nitrogen and protective chemicals. Sperm are immersed in these substances and kept in special freezers.
Frozen sperm cells can remain viable and healthy for many years. The research suggests that frozen sperm can allow for fertilization even after 40 years of preservation.
Once you are ready to use them, sperm cells are thawed and used to fertilize an egg.
Is Sperm Freezing A New Technology?
It may seem like sperm freezing is a relatively newer technology, but the history dates back to the 18th century. In 1776, an Italian physician and priest, Lazaro Spallanzani, reported that sperm cells could survive in ice.
However, the substantial hypothesis about sperm freezing came in 1866. A scientist, Montegazza, suggested that a soldier dying on the battlefield could still beget an heir through frozen sperm at home. These were the times when men were scarce due to war, and legal heirs had significant importance. So, the idea was revolutionary but at that time they did not have enough technological expertise to make it happen.
In the 20th century, veterinary sperm freezing and births were common. Human sperm freezing was being tested, but it was not a norm. After the 1970s, with the advent of IVF and other assisted reproductive methods, sperm freezing started bagging a higher appreciation.
With time, acceptance has ensued, and now sperm freezing has become a convenient technique to preserve male fertility. Many struggling couples benefit from sperm freezing with or without the assisted reproductive technologies.
How Is Sperm Freezing Done?
Sperm freezing is a sophisticated process that needs appropriate temperature and chemicals. The preservative chemicals like liquid nitrogen and other cryoprotectants enable sperm to freeze without being damaged.
Many sperm freezing services are accessible to the public these days. But it is crucial to find a service that has the highest standards. The freezing and thawing process takes a toll on sperm cells and can damage their structure or DNA, so a careful process is crucial. The sperm freezing process has the following phases:
#1 Sperm analysis is performed before freezing
Sperm freezing requires a set of protocols. These measures are in place to guarantee successful procedures and high fertilization outcomes.
Satisfactory results from sperm analysis are sufficient to proceed with freezing. A sperm analysis provides information about the fertilization potential and health of sperm. That’s why a semen analysis is requested prior to moving forward to preservation.
Dadi offers home testing kits for sperm analysis testing. These are great because in-home collection gives you peace of mind and comfort, and does not require additional clinic visits.
Once you have your sperm analysis report, you can take it from there. If your sperm parameters are within normal range, you can immediately go for sperm freezing. However, if you have low sperm count or motility, it may be a good idea to follow a sperm improvement guide to enhance your sperm health before preservation. This may help to ensure that you save strong, viable sperm cells that can tolerate the brunt of freezing and thawing.
#2 You collect your sample and deposit it with the sperm freezing lab
The next step after sperm analysis testing is depositing the sample for freezing. Dadi, allows you to both test and store with the same deposit.
#3 Your sperm are frozen using expanders
When you deposit your sample, it is mixed with chemicals (expanders) and frozen in special freezers.
Sperm freezing needs special programmable freezers. These freezers are capable of maintaining a fixed temperature consistently in the chamber. The temperature setting is vital in ensuring the future viability of sperm.
Another essential component required for productive sperm freezing is a cryoprotectant or expander. Besides being temperature-lowering agents, these chemicals protect sperm viability and make the thawing process smooth. The standard expanders are zinc and glycerol mixed with egg yolk. You need to be familiar with the benefits of these chemicals to understand the process. Knowing these facts also gives you peace of mind that your sperm are safe.
- They provide energy to sperm cells without compromising the integrity of their molecular structures. Sperm need the energy to live. In your body, fructose in semen provides this energy. When semen is not present or frozen, your sperm cells have no food to eat. So, they end up burning their inner cellular molecules to produce power to survive. That may damage the sperm cells and interfere with the safe preservation of fertility. To prevent this process and its results, cryoprotectants are added to the medium. They help in feeding sperm cells and keeping them alive without cellular damage.
- An appropriate environment (not too acidic or basic) promotes sperm viability and preservation. These extenders help to achieve a favorable environment and pH.
- The freezing and thawing process makes sperm vulnerable to the entry of excessive water in them. It leads to the bursting and lysis of sperm cells. Cryoprotectants keep it in check and increase their survival.
- Your semen is a natural medium for sperm. While saving the sperm cells, you cannot separate them from semen. So, semen consistency also makes a difference. It needs to be appropriately thin for effective freezing and thawing. These substances ensure suitable dilution and long-term sperm freezing without compromise in semen integrity.
- Cryoprotectants also diminish the possibility of cross-contamination of sperm samples. They kill microbes (bacteria and viruses) in the sample and preserve it safely.
When Should I Opt For Sperm Freezing?
Obviously, the choice is yours. You can opt for sperm freezing to stop worrying about declining sperm quality due to lifestyle and other factors. But there are some scenarios when you must consider doing it.
The biological clock is not a myth. Although men have a longer fertility window, the sexual health and quality of sperm starts declining with age. It becomes imperative to either have children at a young age or save sperm cells in their healthier form for later use.
With a cultural and economic shift worldwide, the average age for having children is increasing. People want to make careers before having the responsibility of kids. This trend has also contributed to the rise in infertility.
Sperm freezing has arrived to save the day and help people bear children in their desired timeframe. You can save your sperm at a young age to liberate yourself from potential fertility problems in later years.
Testicular or Scrotal Surgery
Testicular or scrotal surgeries carry a risk of interference with spermatogenesis. Trauma or disorders like a varicocele (swelling of the scrotum and lack of blood circulation) need surgical interventions. Some individuals have undescended or malpositioned testis that need to be fixed with surgery. These interventions may damage testes or scrotum and result in infertility.
This does not mean everyone who undergoes these procedures experiences infertility. It is a potential risk, and a proactive approach dictates preserving fertility. So, it is better to freeze sperm before any medical procedure that may lead to fertility problems.
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy can affect male fertility. The fertility testing in patients undergoing treatment for malignancy shows structural abnormalities of sperm cells (azoospermia). The toxicity levels have diminished with the advent of better medicinal technologies. But most males still struggle to regain the fertility levels.
So, it is better to preserve fertility before starting treatment for malignancies. Structural changes of sperm take time to appear. Usually, it happens with continuous toxic chemotherapeutic drugs to stop tumour growth. So, you can also save sperm cells during chemotherapy before the azoospermia sets in.
Spinal Cord Injury
Many spinal cord injuries lead to loss of sensation and nerve supply to the penis. It is why they often become a source of infertility. Sperm freezing helps such individuals to preserve fertility and have healthy children.
Diabetes and Other Disorders
Diabetes affects your nerves and reduces sensations in your body. People with diabetes type 2 suffer from erectile dysfunction because the nerves supplying the penis weaken over time. It interferes with sexual well-being, causes erection problems and leads to men experiencing infertility.
In recent years, diabetes has become common at a young age due to widespread obesity. Besides, diabetes has a variant that appears specifically in earlier years of life. It is linked with genetics and impossible to avoid with a healthier lifestyle. A family history may help you recognize your risk of having it.
Diabetes type 1 is the type of diabetes that occurs before 30 years and is familial in nature. Some people get it in their teen years whilst others have a childhood onset. For such individuals, sperm freezing proves tremendously beneficial.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Sperm Freezing?
No. The sperm freezing procedure is straightforward and demands a sample collection only. You do not take any medication or undergo invasive procedures.