It’s the preservation of semen by freezing and storing it to be used for future fertility options. Semen is frozen to cryogenic temperatures of -196 °C and stored at this temperature until needed. Your frozen semen can be used to produce a pregnancy using Artificial Reproductive Technologies such as artificial insemination, IVF (in vitro fertilization) or ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection).
The semen is stored in small straws that are placed in liquid nitrogen in a cryogenic storage tank. Storage of 2-3 semen ejaculates is optimal, but this depends on the volume of the ejaculate, the initial sperm count and forward progression of the sperm. Your semen will be analysed, and you’ll be advised if more ejaculates need to be stored to ensure maximum reproductive success in the future.
In the case of men/teenagers being diagnosed with cancer and having to face chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it is crucial that semen cryopreservation be performed prior to this therapy. Semen cryopreservation should also be considered before having prostate/testicular surgery, prior to a vasectomy, men in high risk occupations (e.g. exposed to chemicals, radiation, extreme heat), professional sportsmen (especially cyclists, as strenuous and consistent impact can lead to infertility), as well as diabetics, or other medical conditions that can lead to erectile dysfunction.
It is postulated that semen can be cryogenically stored indefinitely. Semen has been cryogenically stored for over 50 years and has been proven to be viable after this time frame.
Once thawed, sperm are introduced into the female by artificial insemination (AI) either depositing the sperm into the uterus, or are used to inseminate female eggs (oocytes) during in vitro fertilization (IVF), or intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) outside the body, where the eggs are then implanted into the uterus.
Once stored, the sperm quality should not be affected. However, an unavoidable amount of minimal damage does occur to the sperm during the freezing process and some sperm may die. This varies in individual samples, as well as from person to person.
Birth defects among children conceived using cryopreserved semen are no different to children conceived using a fresh semen sample. However, there are concerns if the semen was produced after chemotherapy, as chemotherapy may affect the DNA of sperm. This is why it is crucial to preserve your fertility prior to cancer therapies.
Many pregnancies are achieved with Artificial Reproductive Technologies using cryogenically preserved semen samples, but it must be noted that the success rate also depends on the female partner’s fertility status and age.
Samples can be collected at any time of day. 2-3 days abstinence between sample collections is preferred to enable reasonable numbers of sperm to be present. Sperm deteriorates quickly outside the body. A freshly produced semen sample must be cryopreserved within 1 hour of ejaculation.
On average, it is best to store at least 2 to 3 samples (ejaculates). Depending on the volume of the ejaculate, the initial sperm count, how the sperm are moving (forward progression), as well as your circumstances, it may be beneficial to store more. If the semen sample is not adequate for storage, we will advise you to produce another.
Prior to storage, a sperm count, and viability and motility tests are done. These assess how many sperm you have, if they’re alive and if they ‘swim‘ in the correct manner. These tests are not fertility tests and are not a measure of your ability to produce a child. To fully assess your fertility, further semen analysis as well as a physical examination would need to be done.
The quality of your sperm will be discussed with you. Fortunately, with Artificial Reproductive Technologies such as ICSI (where a single, moving sperm is injected into an egg), sub-optimal quality semen samples can be stored and used to father a child in the future. However, if sperm are dead or absent, it will not be possible to store the semen sample.
Yes, depending on their age and sexual maturity. Generally from the age of 12 onwards, it can be considered. Most importantly, the parents and adolescent must be comfortable to do this, as the whole experience and process can be embarrassing for some.
These tests assess whether you have these infections or not. International regulatory standards insist that these tests be done and documented for every semen sample stored. Currently, we are unable to store samples from Hepatitis B and C and HIV positive patients. Samples with mixed, active infections also cannot be stored.
Approximately 20% of men are unaware that they have a semen infection. Infected semen cannot be used in fertility treatments and therefore it cannot be cryogenically stored.
You will be treated with the appropriate antibiotic, and once the course of medication is complete, you will be required to have another semen infection test to check that the infection has cleared.
The process takes approximately 10 – 24 days before cryopreservation is complete, depending on whether a semen infection is present or not. It is crucial for you to store at least 2 to 3 samples for your best future fertility options, with 2 to 3 days abstinence between collections of each sample. For cancer patients, where time is of the essence, we will endeavour to see you as soon as possible to start the process. You will need to consult with your oncologist whether you can safely delay your treatment to do semen cryopreservation.
Speak to your Oncologist as soon as possible prior to the commencement of your cancer treatment, to see if you can safely delay the treatment to allow you to preserve your future fertility by banking your semen. Then contact Next Biosciences as soon as possible to initiate the process.
You will receive a Storage Certificate which you need to keep in a safe place. It is important for you to remember to notify Next Biosciences of any change of contact details or change of circumstances in the future.
If sperm are present in your semen 2 years after cancer treatment, you may still want to keep your stored samples as they were not subjected to chemotherapy. Reasons to consider continuing storage of these samples may include: the possibility of recurrent cancer, further cancer treatment or other unforeseen complications. However, if you would prefer not to continue storing, you will need to complete and sign a disclaimer, giving Next Biosciences permission to destroy your samples.
Your semen samples will be destroyed upon presentation of your death certificate; unless a legal documented is presented stating your wish to transfer ownership of your semen samples to someone else.
You’ll need to make an appointment with a fertility specialist for you and your partner. Your partner’s fertility status will be assessed and a full history will be taken from both of you. You must inform the fertility specialist that you have your semen stored at Next Biosciences. Your semen samples will only be released to the fertility clinic upon written notification by yourself, and Next Biosciences will co-ordinate delivery of your semen to the fertility clinic.
Next Biosciences uses all reasonable endeavours to keep confidential all information relating to you. This information will only be released to you and to your medical practitioner/s for their internal confidential records. None of the information held on Next Biosciences’ database will otherwise be disclosed or released to any third parties other than those required by law.