There are different reasons for wanting or needing to store sperm.
Sperm storage for fertility preservation
This may be offered as a consideration before treatment that could affect an individual's long-term fertility for example:
- before treatment for cancer involving chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy
- before treatment for any condition that requires medication or surgery that could affect sperm creation or release in the normal way, including gender transitioning
Sperm storage for back-up during IVF / ICSI treatment
When the sperm count is very low and there is a concern that there could be no sperm in the ejaculate, it is sensible to produce at least one sample in advance of the day when the sperm is required to fertilise the eggs, and freeze it.
The laboratory will always request a fresh sample as the quality is usually better, but the frozen sample is there as a back-up. It is important that the correct preparation takes place before a sperm sample is produced and frozen. The man must have up-to-date screening blood tests for Hepatitis B, C, HIV and Syphilis (less than 3 months before the sample is frozen), and should abstain from ejaculation for 3-5 days before producing the sample to be frozen.
Sperm storage for donation between known individuals
This situation may arise between a female same-sex couple who have chosen a friend as their sperm donor. It may arise between brothers, one of whom is infertile. It also happens in surrogacy arrangements where the woman carrying the baby is not the partner of the sperm provider. In these situations, the sperm 'donor' needs to have various screening tests before he puts sperm into the freezer, and then again after six months to make sure that no illnesses have developed in the meantime, that might affect the safe use of the stored sperm in the recipient woman (Hepatitis B, C, HIV and Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, CMV, HTLV 1&2 ). The sperm cannot be used until the 6 month quarantine period has passed and the sperm is released as safe to use.
(Sperm used from unknown donors from a sperm bank is screened in exactly the same way.)
It may also be helpful to read our patient information booklet on sperm donation for donors.