Infertile couples put a lot of pressure on themselves to make a baby, especially as the months roll by. You have little time or patience for life’s unanticipated events.
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Your health or travels may interfere with your ability to conceive, but, fortunately, you have options. For men, banking sperm can be a viable alternative.
A Cleveland area couple recently took advantage of that alternative. Nicole Herbst continued with the process of intrauterine insemination (IUI) while her husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a year.
When to bank sperm
“We sometimes use banked or frozen sperm as part of our fertility treatments,” says OB/GYN Rebecca Flyckt, MD, a fertility specialist at Cleveland Clinic. “Banking sperm is a way for us to expand a couple’s reproductive options.”
You should think about sperm banking if you have:
- Cancer – The medical therapies used to treat cancer — radiation and chemotherapy – can cause a man to become temporarily or permanently infertile.
- Medical conditions — Heart problems, diabetes, obesity, paralysis and other diseases might impact your reproductive health, making it difficult for you to get your partner pregnant.
- Stress– Some men find it difficult to produce a sperm sample on the day of a procedure and prefer supplying it ahead of time.
Couples who know they’ll be separated for a long time may also want to bank sperm, says Dr. Flyckt.
Ms. Herbst found herself in that situation. She and her husband, Rob, had tried for more than a year to get pregnant.
Soldier banks sperm
When they learned that Rob’s U.S. Army Reserve unit was being deployed to Afghanistan, “we knew we had to kick it up a notch,” says Ms. Herbst, 40. “We started intrauterine insemination procedures. Our lives were revolving around those couple of days when I ovulated. Timing was everything.”
Ms. Herbst got pregnant on her second IUI, but her joy was short-lived. The embryo stopped growing. One week before Rob left for Afghanistan, Nicole prepared to miscarry.
Ms. Herbst’s husband banked sperm so the couple could continue with IUI while he was overseas. The sperm-banking process includes:
- Producing sperm samples: This can be done at a fertility center or at home. The sperm is collected quickly to ensure its viability, with a small sample taken for testing.
- Dividing the samples and freezing: Small amounts of sperm along with a cryopreservative are divided into cryo vials. The freezing process takes place in stages, with the final temperature reaching -196° C. The samples can be stored indefinitely.
- Using the samples: A sample is thawed differently depending on whether it will be used for an IUI or in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. “We only need to isolate a few healthy sperm for IVF,” Dr. Flyckt says. “We only need as many sperm as there are eggs.”
A priceless result
Ms. Herbst used the banked sperm a few times, but didn’t become pregnant again until Rob returned from overseas.
Now, all the procedures, worry and waiting are over.
In March 2014, the couple delivered their first child, a daughter, at Fairview Hospital