Frequently Asked Questions About Sperm Banking
1. What’s a sperm cryobank?
2. Who uses a sperm bank?
3. When does one bank sperm?
4. How do you Store Specimens?
5. Are There Any Risks Involved In Being Artificially Inseminated With Cryopreserved Sperm?
6. How Can I Be Sure I Am Getting My Own Sperm?
7. How Long Can Frozen Sperm Last?
8. Are the fees for storage covered by my insurance carrier?
9. What are the fees for storage?
10. Can I pay my storage fees online?
11. Are there Organizations that can help with the costs?
first a few definitions…
The term “Cryo” is a prefix derived from the Greek word “Kryos” which means cold or frost. Cryogenics is the area of science that deals with the study of matter at very low temperatures. A “cryobank” is a facility in which frozen tissue, in this case sperm, is stored.
…and a little bit of history
The interest in storage and preservation of sperm dates back to the 1776 when Lazaro Spallanzani, an Italian priest and physiologist, first reported that sperm became “motionless” when cooled by snow. However, it wasn’t until 1866 that a scientist named Montegazza suggested that “a man dying on the battlefield may beget a legal heir with his semen frozen and stored at home”. Unfortunately, that dream took more than 100 years to be realized.
In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s scientists found that sperm could survive freezing lower than -3210 F (-1600 C). The problem was how to insure survival and function for prolonged periods of time. These problems were overcome by the work of several investigators who found that by using a “syrupy” substance known as glycerol and “slowly” freezing the specimen, not only would the sperm cell be spared injury by the formation of ice crystals inside the cell, but that “function”, as defined by the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg, could be maintained.
The first human pregnancy with “frozen” sperm was reported in 1953. However, due to the controversy surrounding use of “artificial” insemination, it wasn’t until a decade later, at the 11th International Congress of Genetics in 1963, that this breakthrough was reported and interest in sperm banking began.
Over the last 30 years many improvements in sperm cryobanking have occurred. Storage in liquid nitrogen (-384 F/-196 C) became the standard. Solutions used for sperm preservation have become standardized and commercially available, which has assured consistency in post-thaw survival. Also, computer controlled programmed freezing of specimens has greatly improved post thaw survival and viability of the cryopreserved sperm.
However, the indications for sperm cryobanking have been greatly expanded by recent breakthroughs in assisted reproduction, in which a single sperm…even without movement…can be used to fertilize the oocyte (egg) from the female. Prior to the development of these techniques, millions of sperm were required to fertilize a single oocyte. Now, even men who have few sperm in their ejaculated semen…or even in men with sperm found only in their testes…can have their sperm cryopreserved for use in fertilization of their partner’s oocytes.
There are many indications for sperm banking…….
- Patients with Cancer in which the treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation) or the disease itself might impair the patient’s sperm production or semen quality
- Patients undergoing surgery on the testis, prostate or spinal cord
- Patients with severely impaired semen parameters can benefit from cryopreservation to preserve their future fertility potential
- Patients with physical disabilities who may require retrieval of sperm and pooling of specimens and/or timing of insemination with their partner’s cycle
- Patients involved in hazardous occupations may bank their sperm to preserve their fertility potential
- Patients prior to undergoing a vasectomy
- Patients undergoing surgery to reconstruct an obstructed vas deferens, or ejaculatory duct
- Patients having a diagnostic testicular biopsy may want to cryopreserve a portion of the specimen
- Pooling of cryopreserved specimens for IUI in patients with low sperm counts
When to bank sperm is usually determined by the reason for banking.
A patient acutely ill and in need of urgent therapy needs to bank prior to starting treatment. Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy and Surgery all have the potential of permanently impairing sperm production or the presence of sperm in the ejaculate.
In addition, Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy might alter the DNA of sperm. Therefore, it is usually recommended that 1 to 2 years elapse prior to using fresh sperm for conception. Of course, cryopreserved sperm can be used during this ‘waiting’ period.
Also, since several ejaculated specimens might be obtained, it is suggested that banking begin as soon as the diagnosis is made. This will allow for both collection of several semen specimens as well as to provide for the 2 to 3 day period of abstinence suggested for semen collection.
The process begins with a consultation, at which time your health history is discussed and a physical examination is performed to assess your present and future fertility potential. Blood and urine studies are performed to evaluate for active or occult infection, as may be required by the New York State Department of Health. In addition, a semen analysis and trial of freezing is done to assess sperm survival after cryopreservation.
This evaluation takes approximately one and a half hours of your time and addresses your particular needs for cryopreservation as well as providing sufficient time to answer all questions you might have. Depending on your particular requirements and semen quality, a schedule will then be designed which will include the number and frequency of appointments needed to accomplish your goal.
After the specimen is evaluated it is stored on-site in a secure facility with access control including 24/7 video monitoring. The specimens are stored in liquid nitrogen and does not require electrical power. Therefore, the specimens are unaffected by any power outages that might occur.
The use of cryopreserved sperm, by itself, has little risk to the women being inseminated. However the procedures in which it is used, either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in-vitro fertilization (IVF), are invasive procedures that have their own well described risks. In addition, the solutions used in preparing sperm for these procedures might result in an allergic reaction or infection. Although, these complications are rare, you should discuss them with your doctor. There are also the risks associated with the age of the women. As a woman (and consequently) her eggs age, there is an increased chance that the fertilized egg will develop normally…whether using frozen or fresh sperm. This is also something that you should discuss with your doctor. Recent studies have found no increase in genetic alterations in cryopreserved sperm when compared to fresh sperm.
All sperm look alike when viewed under a microscope. Therefore, to minimize the possibility that mix-ups in semen specimens occur, we follow rigid labeling, processing and storage procedures established by both the New York State Department of Health and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Cryopreserved sperm have been known to fertilize oocytes and result in pregnancies, after more than ten years of storage. However, there is no way to guarantee that cryopreserved sperm will be able to fertilize an oocyte. By utilizing the highest quality freezing solutions available, computer controlled programming equipment for freezing and maintaining rigidly controlled storage conditions, NYCryo maximizes the duration of sperm survival
Many insurance carriers are covering costs associated with sperm cryopreservation if treatment (e.g., chemotherapy or radiation) can affect sperm production. It is best to check with your insurance carrier for your specific coverage.
Our fees are often less than many comparable facilities. In addition, we offer many options for our patients. Please see the New York Cryo fee schedule .
Yes you can. Please see the NYCryo Online payment
Yes there are. Many are for children and young adults with cancer. If you know of others please let us know!
LIVESTRONG Fertility Discount Program
2201 E. Sixth Street Austin, Texas 78702
A Mothers Kiss
P.O. Box 23
Copiague, NY 11726
(Children with cancer only)
Jay’s World Childhood Cancer Foundation
Ralph & Maryann Napolitano
5 Knoll Lane
Glen Head, NY 11545
(Children with Cancer Only)
For NYPD employees: contact your benefit representative to inquire as to availability of funds
If you have any questions please contact us at 516-487-2700 or toll free at 877-7NYCRYO or by email firstname.lastname@example.org