Why Semen Cryopreservation

Now, more than ever, we have control over our reproductive lives.

Depositing semen in a long-term storage bank offers options for future fertility and peace of mind.

Next Biosciences offers men long-term cryopreservation of their semen until it is needed.

Reasons men should consider semen cryopreservation:

  • Before undergoing cancer therapies – therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can cause permanent sterility and infertility.
  • Before having prostate or testicular surgery – male reproductive organs can be damaged during testicular surgery or a prostatectomy.
  • Before having a vasectomy – to preserve fertility and prevent the need for reversal surgery should personal circumstances change.
  • High risk occupations – exposure to chemical, radiation, extreme heat etc. can lead to infertility in men.
  • When involved with Assisted Reproductive Technologies.
  • When men are going to be absent – semen freezing enables the female partner to continue with her reproductive schedule even if the male partner can’t be there due to work commitments or unforeseen circumstances.
  • Professional Sportsmen (especially cyclists) – strenuous and consistent impact can lead to infertility.

Next Biosciences offers men long-term cryopreservation of their semen for future use in artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Human semen has been cryogenically stored since the 1950’s and, due to on-going research, the process and techniques have become more refined, giving men the assurance that they will have reproductive success after an extended period of storage.

Cryo-Y Process:

  1. Please note that currently this service is only available in Johannesburg and Pretoria from Monday to Friday.
  2. Please note that it is recommended that at least 2-3 ejaculates are stored to ensure sufficient semen for future reproductive technologies.
  3. Please note that tests done prior to storage are not “fertility tests” and are not a measure of your ability to reproduce.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is semen cryopreservation (sperm banking)?

It’s the preservation of semen by freezing and storing it to be used for future fertility options. Semen is frozen to cryogenic temperatures of -196 °C and stored at this temperature until needed. Your frozen semen can be used to produce a pregnancy using Artificial Reproductive Technologies such as artificial insemination, IVF (in vitro fertilization) or ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection).

How is the semen stored?

The semen is stored in small straws that are placed in liquid nitrogen in a cryogenic storage tank. Storage of 2-3 semen ejaculates is optimal, but this depends on the volume of the ejaculate, the initial sperm count and forward progression of the sperm. Your semen will be analysed, and you’ll be advised if more ejaculates need to be stored to ensure maximum reproductive success in the future.

When can semen cryopreservation be performed?

In the case of men/teenagers being diagnosed with cancer and having to face chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it is crucial that semen cryopreservation be performed prior to this therapy. Semen cryopreservation should also be considered before having prostate/testicular surgery, prior to a vasectomy, men in high risk occupations (e.g. exposed to chemicals, radiation, extreme heat), professional sportsmen (especially cyclists, as strenuous and consistent impact can lead to infertility), as well as diabetics, or other medical conditions that can lead to erectile dysfunction.

How long can my semen be cryogenically stored for?

It is postulated that semen can be cryogenically stored indefinitely. Semen has been cryogenically stored for over 50 years and has been proven to be viable after this time frame.

How is the semen used?

Once thawed, sperm are introduced into the female by artificial insemination (AI) either depositing the sperm into the uterus, or are used to inseminate female eggs (oocytes) during in vitro fertilization (IVF), or intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) outside the body, where the eggs are then implanted into the uterus.

Will cryopreservation cause damage to my sperm?

Once stored, the sperm quality should not be affected. However, an unavoidable amount of minimal damage does occur to the sperm during the freezing process and some sperm may die. This varies in individual samples, as well as from person to person.

Are there any defects caused in children conceived from cryopreserved semen?

Birth defects among children conceived using cryopreserved semen are no different to children conceived using a fresh semen sample. However, there are concerns if the semen was produced after chemotherapy, as chemotherapy may affect the DNA of sperm. This is why it is crucial to preserve your fertility prior to cancer therapies.

Many pregnancies are achieved with Artificial Reproductive Technologies using cryogenically preserved semen samples, but it must be noted that the success rate also depends on the female partner’s fertility status and age.

When is the best time to provide the semen samples?

Samples can be collected at any time of day. 2-3 days abstinence between sample collections is preferred to enable reasonable numbers of sperm to be present. Sperm deteriorates quickly outside the body. A freshly produced semen sample must be cryopreserved within 1 hour of ejaculation

How many samples (ejaculates) do I need to store?

On average, it is best to store at least 2 to 3 samples (ejaculates). Depending on the volume of the ejaculate, the initial sperm count, how the sperm are moving (forward progression), as well as your circumstances, it may be beneficial to store more. If the semen sample is not adequate for storage, we will advise you to produce another.

What tests are done to assess the quality of my sperm?

Prior to storage, a sperm count, and viability and motility tests are done. These assess how many sperm you have, if they’re alive and if they ‘swim‘ in the correct manner. These tests are not fertility tests and are not a measure of your ability to produce a child. To fully assess your fertility, further semen analysis as well as a physical examination would need to be done.

What happens if my quality of sperm is not optimal?

The quality of your sperm will be discussed with you. Fortunately, with Artificial Reproductive Technologies such as ICSI (where a single, moving sperm is injected into an egg), sub-optimal quality semen samples can be stored and used to father a child in the future. However, if sperm are dead or absent, it will not be possible to store the semen sample.

Can Adolescents or teenagers store semen prior to cancer treatment or surgery?

Yes, depending on their age and sexual maturity. Generally from the age of 12 onwards, it can be considered. Most importantly, the parents and adolescent must be comfortable to do this, as the whole experience and process can be embarrassing for some.

Why do I need to have blood tests done for HIV, Hepatitis B and C?

These tests assess whether you have these infections or not. International regulatory standards insist that these tests be done and documented for every semen sample stored. Currently, we are unable to store samples from Hepatitis B and C and HIV positive patients. Samples with mixed, active infections also cannot be stored.

If I have no signs or symptoms of a semen infection, why do I need a semen infection test?

Approximately 20% of men are unaware that they have a semen infection. Infected semen cannot be used in fertility treatments and therefore it cannot be cryogenically stored.

What happens if I have an infection in my semen?

You will be treated with the appropriate antibiotic, and once the course of medication is complete, you will be required to have another semen infection test to check that the infection has cleared.

How long does the process take?

The process takes approximately 10 – 24 days before cryopreservation is complete, depending on whether a semen infection is present or not. It is crucial for you to store at least 2 to 3 samples for your best future fertility options, with 2 to 3 days abstinence between collections of each sample. For cancer patients, where time is of the essence, we will endeavour to see you as soon as possible to start the process. You will need to consult with your oncologist whether you can safely delay your treatment to do semen cryopreservation.

What happens if my Oncologist has not referred me for semen cryopreservation?

Speak to your Oncologist as soon as possible prior to the commencement of your cancer treatment, to see if you can safely delay the treatment to allow you to preserve your future fertility by banking your semen. Then contact Next Biosciences as soon as possible to initiate the process.

What happens after my samples have been cryopreserved?

You will receive a Storage Certificate which you need to keep in a safe place. It is important for you to remember to notify Next Biosciences of any change of contact details or change of circumstances in the future.

What happens if I have sperm present after cancer treatment?

If sperm are present in your semen 2 years after cancer treatment, you may still want to keep your stored samples as they were not subjected to chemotherapy. Reasons to consider continuing storage of these samples may include: the possibility of recurrent cancer, further cancer treatment or other unforeseen complications. However, if you would prefer not to continue storing, you will need to complete and sign a disclaimer, giving Next Biosciences permission to destroy your samples.

What happens to my stored samples if I die?

Your semen samples will be destroyed upon presentation of your death certificate; unless a legal documented is presented stating your wish to transfer ownership of your semen samples to someone else.

What happens in the future if my partner and I want a baby using my cryogenically stored semen?

You’ll need to make an appointment with a fertility specialist for you and your partner. Your partner’s fertility status will be assessed and a full history will be taken from both of you. You must inform the fertility specialist that you have your semen stored at Next Biosciences. Your semen samples will only be released to the fertility clinic upon written notification by yourself, and Next Biosciences will co-ordinate delivery of your semen to the fertility clinic.

What about Confidentiality?

Next Biosciences uses all reasonable endeavours to keep confidential all information relating to you. This information will only be released to you and to your medical practitioner/s for their internal confidential records. None of the information held on Next Biosciences’ database will otherwise be disclosed or released to any third parties other than those required by law.