OHSU Fertility Sperm Cryopreservation

dad and son

Success rates with frozen sperm

If you choose to have your sperm frozen, you can use your sperm at a later date to get pregnant. This would work either through intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). When we thaw the sperm sample, experts in our lab are able to analyze the motility (ability to move) and mobility of the sperm through a “test thaw.” If the sperm has been negatively affected by freezing/thawing, the rate of conception through IUI may be lower. When we identify poor sperm characteristics, or when very few frozen sperm samples are available, IVF may be a better choice. In general, the IVF success rate is not affected by using cryopreserved semen.

In any event, when the time comes, you will always have the opportunity to discuss options with one of our specialists. We will help you determine the best options for achieving a pregnancy using your frozen samples.

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The sperm cryopreservation process

Just as each person is unique, so is the success of the freezing/thawing process for each sperm sample. For each semen sample we determine the semen volume, sperm count (concentration), and percent motility (number of sperm that swim). We use a special solution (cryoprotectant) to protect the sperm from freezing conditions and place it into distinctive containers (cryovials) for freezing. Depending on the size and the quality of the sample, we will use one or more vials per sample. (Each vial can hold up to 1.8 ml). Each vial is labeled with your name, the freeze date and a unique vial number. The vials are slowly cooled, then frozen and stored in our liquid nitrogen tanks. Following freezing of the first sample, a small volume of semen is thawed to determine how well the freezing process worked and the number of motile sperm remaining per vial.

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The number of semen samples to freeze

When it’s time to decide how many samples to freeze, you will work with your doctor and discuss:

  • Semen quality
  • Conception rates
  • Current technology
  • Anticipated sample need
  • Time constraints

Regardless of how many samples are frozen, sperm cryopreservation does not guarantee future reproductive success. However, the goal is always to preserve a reasonable chance at producing a pregnancy.

We recommend that enough samples are frozen (cryobanked) to provide thawed sperm for at least four intrauterine inseminations IUIs. And that each of these contain at least 10-20 million motile sperm each. The number of samples needed to achieve this standard is totally dependent on the sperm count and motility of each ejaculate. A typical man can achieve this level by freezing two semen samples. If your sample does not meet this standard, you may still effectively use IVF. It is possible, that you may not have enough time to freeze multiple samples before undergoing their medical treatments. Our lab can provide the cryopreservation data to your doctor. We will indicate whether additional freezing is recommended.

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Length of time sperm samples may be frozen

As far as we know, the viability of cryopreserved sperm may be kept forever. This is due to the freezing technique and because the semen is stored at such a low temperature (-196 C). Samples stored more than 20 years have been used to create successful pregnancies and healthy babies.

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Scheduling appointments

Appointments to cryopreserve semen are scheduled Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. We recommend that you do not have sex for two to three days before each appointment. For best results, you should come into the clinic and collect your sample. You will be able to use one of the private rooms next to the lab. You may also collect your sample at home and bring it in. If this is the case, you must bring in your sample within one hour of collection. And it must be kept at body temperature during transport to the Andrology lab. All samples are collected in a special sterile collection container or in a unique kind of condom provided by us. Your first appointment usually takes about an hour. Appointments after that are shorter.

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Your doctor must place an order (a requisition) for sperm cryopreservation before your first appointment. Requisitions may be mailed or sent via fax to our Andrology lab at 503-418-3708. Our lab will send the cryopreservation results back to your doctor.

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Consent for the use of cryopreserved sperm

Cryopreserved sperm is the property of the individual who produced the specimen(s) regardless of marital status. It is always your choice how you use your samples. For this reason, you will complete and sign a form indicating your consent for the use of your sperm. If you are using your sperm for intrauterine insemination or IVF the consent form must state this. Frozen sperm samples do not automatically transfer to the next of kin upon death. This also must be indicated in the consent form. Each consent form addresses these options and provides clear written documentation to ensure your plans and wishes are followed under any circumstances.

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Fees for cryopreservation of sperm

Cost to freeze each sample

  • Preservation of the first sample (includes a one-time post-thaw analysis)  $150*
  • Yearly sample storage   $250*
  • Withdrawal fee $30

* payable on the first visit if the sample is frozen

Each year, you must fill out a storage renewal form and pay the yearly storage fee in advance. Annual rates apply for each year or any portion of a year and are non-refundable.

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