Sperm donors are not the only ones who bank their sperm. People who don't plan to donate do so too, especially if they aren't ready to have a baby yet but know they will one day.
Freezing sperm also known as cryopreservation or semen banking, sperm freezing is a technique of preserving sperms by freezing using a special media and storing in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of - 196 C. The cryopreservation process ensures that sperm motility is retained indefinitely and the frozen semen can be thawed and used to fertilise eggs in the future using assisted reproductive techniques such as ICSI, IUI, or IVF. This is a great way for couples (or singles) to preserve their chances of conceiving a biological baby in the future.
Sperm freezing is a helpful procedure, especially for older men, men whose sperm count is low or sperm quality is deteriorating, those involved in hazardous work or in high-risk professions such as the military, those undergoing medical procedures like vasectomy or gender reassignment surgery, and cancer patients waiting for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
How is it done?
Before banking sperm, the blood has to be screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Besides, an abstinence period of 2-7 days is advised before the day of retrieval. The sample can be obtained in a private room at the fertility clinic or sperm bank, or at home where it is comfortable. The former process allows the sperm to be frozen when it is freshest, and in the latter case the sample needs to be brought to the clinic within an hour. The sample is then analysed for sperm quantity, shape, and movement, which will help determine how many more samples are needed. In general, about three to six specimens are collected for each desired pregnancy, but it'll depend on the quality of the sperm obtained. The samples are then separated into multiple vials and frozen. In the case that there are no sperms present in the sample, or if ejaculation is not possible due to some issues, it is possible to have a surgical retrieval. Here, a healthcare professional will remove sperm directly from the testicles.
The standard time for storing sperm is 10 years, but the storage time can be extended upto 50 years. When the need for the retrieval of sperms comes, they are thawed, washed, and tested for mobility prior to use in IUI or IVF. Sperm does not lose its ability or effectiveness because of a freeze or thaw. They have the same fertilisation capability as fresh sperm.