Around 500,000 vasectomies are performed a year in the United States. For many men in the US, vasectomy is the most effective method of contraceptive due to its permanent, hands-off nature. However, it’s not uncommon for people have regrets when it comes to permanent procedures such as vasectomy. Maybe you remarried and want more kids, or maybe you decided that living child-free wasn’t for you after all.
Vasectomy reversals are very effective (~97%) when performed within three years of the initial vasectomy. This drops to 91% from three to eight years, 82% from nine to fourteen years, and 69% beyond fourteen years. For those who decide that they want kids much later in life after a vasectomy, there’s some uncertainty as to how effective it might be. One way around this is sperm banking.
The role of a sperm bank is to take healthy sperm and freeze it in a process called cryopreservation. The sperm is stored at very low temperatures, around -196 degrees. Once frozen, sperm can be stored almost indefinitely, though it may not be as effective after 12 years depending on how it was frozen.
Before freezing, a sample of the semen is analyzed to determine the quality of sperm. If the sperm count and motility is good, it will be divided into batches and frozen. One ejaculation is about 1-6 vials of frozen sperm, and most opt to save multiple ejaculations. This process costs $500-700, and storage is about $300-$1000 per year.
When it’s time to use the frozen sperm, the patient notifies the bank, who release it to the patients physician. The sperm can also be destroyed or donated. The sperm can then be used for artificial insemination, where the sperm is transferred to the uterus in a process called intrauterine insemination (IUI).
A vasectomy is one of the best ways to prevent pregnancy without sacrificing physical well being and sexual pleasure. Because it’s permanent, its probably a good idea to have a back up plan. A vasectomy reversal is usually very effective but as time goes on, its effectiveness goes down. Sperm banking is a viable, if costly, alternative that allows one to save their sperm for future use should a vasectomy reversal prove to be impossible.