Sperm banking, in the simplest of terms, refers to the practice of storing sperm for future use. Sperm can be stored indefinitely when cryogenically frozen, and can be thawed and used to fertilize an woman’s egg. A pregnancy conceived using frozen sperm is no different from a normal pregnancy.
There are two types of sperm banks- private sperm banks, and donor sperm banks. Donor sperm banks, which many of you may have heard of, purchase sperm provided by donors and sell it to those who want children. Donors are screened and added to a database, and buyers can select which donor they prefer.
A private sperm bank, unlike a donor sperm bank, only cater to individual families. Private sperm banks may be associated with a fertility clinic, or may be a branch of a national corporation. The sperm sample is either collected locally, at a clinic, or mailed overnight through a home collection kit. Many doctors may recommend two samples taken on separate days, just to be safe.
Before the sperm can be collected, the donor’s blood must be tested for diseases that could be transmitted through sperm. This includes HIV, hepatitis B and C, and many more. If the donor tests positive for any of these the sample may be unusable.
Once collected, the a small portion of the sample is tested to see how well it holds up to freezing and thawing, and whether or not it will be viable for future use. If all goes well, the sperm is slowly frozen in liquid nitrogen tanks at -190C, where they can be kept stable almost indefinitely. Even twenty year old sperm can still be useable.
When the time comes for the sperm to be used, the bank coordinates the transfer of the frozen sperm to the fertility clinic, where it is thawed and prepared for the insemination procedure. Usually, only a small amount of sperm is required. That way, if it doesn’t work the first time, there will be enough for future attempts.
Why Sperm Banking?
Private sperm banking is excellent for men who wish to conceive a child but have lost reproductive function or have issues with infertility. It is also great for men who are unsure if they want a child, but wish to have the option later on in life. Men who plan to undergo vasectomy are good candidates to have their sperm frozen. Sperm banking is highly effective and well established method of ensuring future reproductive success.