The objective of male fertility preservation is to conserve the biological material of the male so that its characteristics remain unaltered over time and can therefore be used in the future. Unlike women, where fertility preservation is often the result of a desire to postpone fertility for social reasons or because of an illness, in the case of men, whose fertility can be prolonged over time, the causes are usually medical.
Sperm cryopreservation: what is it and how is it performed?
Sperm cryopreservation is the most important male fertility preservation technique. It has been developed for decades and allows spermatozoa to be frozen in complete safety and in perfect conditions.
Sperm cryopreservation is simple for the patient and only requires a sperm sample from the patient after 3-4 days of sexual abstinence. The sample is collected in a sterilized jar, with the greatest hygienic precautions (prior hand washing) and ensuring that it is complete (i.e., that all the ejaculate remains inside the jar). Although the collection of the sample can be done at home, it is advisable to collect it directly at the clinic in order to guarantee greater safety during the whole process.
Before freezing the sample, it is sent to the laboratory, where a semen analysis is performed to verify its quality. As semen can deteriorate during the thawing process, it is necessary that the sample is of high quality.
If the experts confirm its validity, in the laboratory, the cryoprotective agent that will protect the cell at low temperatures is added to the semen sample. The mixture is loaded into high security embryotest straws specifically designed for the freezing of human semen. These straws function as an individual container that isolates and protects its contents from possible external contamination. The straw is then heat-sealed and decontaminated before being placed in liquid nitrogen for freezing at a temperature of 196°C below zero.
Since cryopreservation of sperm paralyzes sperm metabolism, the semen sample has no expiration date and can be used at any time.
Causes for male fertility preservation, in which cases is it recommended?
- Males who are going to undergo oncological treatment (or similar), which may reduce or annul their reproductive capacity. Some of the oncological treatments are very aggressive and can negatively affect the testicular tissue, and although in many cases, with time, testicular function recovers normally, in others the sperm quality is compromised.
For this reason, and especially in the case of young patients (the prevalence of testicular tumors in men between 15 and 35 years of age is high), sperm cryopreservation is recommended so that the patient does not renounce future paternity with his own gametes.
In these cases, the oncologist should promptly refer the patient to an assisted reproduction center where as many samples as possible will be frozen before starting treatment or therapy.
- Males who are going to undergo a surgical intervention such as, for example, a vasectomy. Since not all vasectomies are reversible, freezing one or more semen samples allows the patient, if desired, to have offspring at a later date.
- Males who are going to receive a medical treatment that may involve a progressive deterioration in the quantity, quality or characteristics of their sperm due to a known or unknown cause. Taking a sample at a time when fertility is still high guarantees being able to have biological children in the future.
Preservation of male fertility in assisted reproductive treatments
Frozen semen samples are used in fertility treatments where donor sperm is required. Also if, at the time of in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fresh semen sample cannot be obtained because the male is not present or because it cannot be collected at a certain time. This procedure allows for a greater margin of safety and better planning of assisted reproduction treatments.
Finally, some couples, when undergoing fertility treatment to become parents, take the opportunity to preserve biological samples, both male and female, in order to use them in future fertility cycles to increase their offspring.
Male fertility preservation at CREA
At CREA we have our own andrology department and we advise men in case of infertility, assisted reproduction treatments or male fertility preservation.
We have 25 years of experience in the freezing of semen with liquid nitrogen and in our facilities we have modern containers that are self-supplied with nitrogen, guaranteeing the stability in the maintenance of all semen samples.
Our containers are also equipped with two independent systems for continuous monitoring of critical parameters to ensure the correct maintenance of frozen samples.
All straws, identified by three independent methods, are stored with the help of an exclusive computer system patented by CREA. We also have a location software that allows us to find each sample quickly and safely.