Forget what you think you know about sperm banking. The whole process is more advanced and more private than ever before, says Ashok Agarwal, PhD, Director of the Andrology Laboratory and Sperm Bank.
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If you’re at risk for infertility, heading overseas in the military or simply planning ahead, sperm banking can preserve your ability to have a family in the future. Dr. Agarwal shares seven facts about sperm banking, or cryopreservation, that may surprise you.
1. You can bank your sperm at home
Many men view sperm collection as a private activity. And it can be, with home sperm banking kits (including one developed by Cleveland Clinic). Kits can be delivered discreetly to your home along with detailed instructions for collecting and returning the sample for storage. If you’re interested, ask your doctor; sperm banking requires a referral.
2. Banking lets you plan ahead if your health is at risk
Many diseases and some treatments can put your reproductive health at risk. Fortunately, you can plan ahead. It’s wise to consider sperm banking if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, testicular cancer or diabetes, or if you’re undergoing chemotherapy, radiation treatment or certain surgeries. Sperm banking may also be an option if you’re planning to have a vasectomy.
3. Sperm banking produces healthy babies
Cryopreservation (freezing) keeps your sperm healthy and viable. Babies conceived using cryopreserved sperm are just as healthy as those conceived naturally. There is no increased risk for birth defects when frozen sperm are used.
4. Banking helps you keep your options open
The sperm banking process is designed to keep men’s options for having a family open for a long time. For example, a young man with leukemia had a sperm sample frozen in 1986. In 2008, he and his wife conceived and gave birth to a healthy daughter using that very sample. At 22 years, that remains the record.
5. Sperm must be frozen right away
For cryopreservation, sperm must be placed into a “cryo vial” for storage as soon as possible after collection in person or at home. Sperm are stored in a high-tech freezer at -196 degrees Celsius until needed. Home kits often include cooling components for safe transport.
6. A sample is always tested
Doctors will test a sample from the banked sperm to get an idea of your sperm’s health and to uncover any potential concerns about fertility.
7. Sperm banking is an option for healthy men, too
Healthy men may choose sperm banking for many reasons. Scientific reports confirm a worldwide decline in sperm counts. Fatherhood after age 40 comes with an increased risk of DNA damage in sperm. As more men delay families, sperm banking is an option for those concerned about future fertility.