How Long Can You Freeze Sperm For IVF Treatment?
If you are thinking of having IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment to start a family and you want to use frozen sperm, you might have some questions about the process.
Here, we take a closer look at how sperm freezing works, how it can help with IVF, and how long sperm can be frozen. Read on to find out more.
How does sperm freezing work?
Sperm freezing is a successful method of preserving a man’s fertility so that he can have children in the future. It’s also a method of storing sperm in donor facilities so that it can be used in fertility treatment where donor sperm is used.
Before you can provide the sperm sample to be frozen, you’ll need to undergo several routine tests to ensure that you don’t have any infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. You can still freeze your sperm if you test positive — this is just to ensure that the clinic stores your sample separately to prevent cross-contamination. Typically, donor sperm has to be ‘quarantined’ for three to six months, as it needs to be thoroughly screened and checked for any health issues or diseases.
Your written consent is needed to enable a provider to freeze your sperm, and you can choose how long you want it frozen before you produce the sample. Once received, the sample is mixed with a cryoprotectant to stop the sperm from being damaged during the freezing process.
The sample will normally be divided between a few different containers (called straws) before being frozen. This means that not all the sperm needs to be thawed if you want to use it — allowing one collected sample to be used for multiple fertility treatments.
The freezing process is quite slow so that the sperm isn’t damaged. First, it is cooled down at a controlled rate, before then being placed into liquid nitrogen to freeze it fully.
Sperm freezing can be very beneficial for men who don’t want to have children right away, need to undergo a medical treatment which may affect their fertility, or perhaps haven’t met the right partner yet and want to preserve their fertility for longer.
Is frozen sperm good for IVF?
IVF (in vitro fertilisation) is a popular fertility treatment in which a woman’s eggs are removed from her ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.
Both ‘fresh’ sperm and frozen sperm can be used for IVF. Using frozen sperm has been shown to have no impact on the success rate of IVF treatment, allowing you to feel confident in your choice of sample.
There are a number of reasons why you may want to consider freezing your sperm for IVF.
Using frozen sperm can be a convenient and stress-free option. When going through the IVF process, a woman will have to go through 7–10 days of hormone injections, before she can have her eggs harvested. This then means that you’d need to time your sperm sample with this process.
But if you use frozen sperm from a previous date, you won’t have to worry about producing it on a certain day in line with the IVF process. This can take a lot of the pressure off, which is exactly what you need when going through fertility treatment.
How much sperm is needed for IVF?
When it comes to the criteria required for sperm being used for IVF, it’s often recommended that at least 30% of the sperm are motile — this means that they have the ability to swim towards the egg and fertilise it.
The quality of the sperm is extremely important because it needs to be viable enough that it could lead to a successful pregnancy.
The amount of sperm needed will depend on how many rounds of IVF treatment you have, but most of the time, one straw is needed at first. However, if the first round is unsuccessful, you’ll need to use another straw in the next attempt.
How is sperm collected for IVF?
Sperm retrieval for IVF can be done in a few different ways, and it will depend whether the man can produce the sperm sample on his own or not.
If a man is unable to ejaculate, then surgical intervention can be necessary. Testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) is the most common method of sperm extraction for IVF, and it will be done under local anaesthetic. This is where a needle is inserted into the testicle, and a sperm sample is retrieved. This method needs to be timed with the female part of the IVF treatment as well.
Preparing for the collection of your sperm is important, and it’s often recommended that you don’t drink alcohol or smoke beforehand as it can impact the quality of your sperm. Generally, you want to be leading a healthy lifestyle, as this can help your sperm to be of the highest quality when producing a sample.
How long can sperm be frozen for IVF?
Current legislation in the UK says that you can store your frozen sperm for up to 55 years, although you will need to renew your consent every 10 years and you will be contacted by your chosen clinic when this renewed consent is needed.
It’s vital that you keep your contact information with the clinic up to date, as if they don’t receive your newly agreed consent, they may dispose of your frozen sperm.
Frozen sperm is stored in freezers that contain liquid nitrogen, keeping it at a steady temperature of -196°C.
When you’re ready to use your sperm, it will be very carefully thawed until it gradually reaches room temperature. Once thawed, it will be checked to make sure that the sample is still viable and that your sperm are still motile.
Some of the sperm may not survive, but that doesn’t mean that the rest can’t work well in IVF treatment. In most cases, as the saying goes, it is a case of survival of the fittest.
How to improve sperm quality for IVF
If you want to enhance the quality of your sperm for IVF treatment, there are some things that you can do to improve your chances of success.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
- Cut down on alcohol
- Practice safe sex to avoid sexually transmitted diseases
- Keep stress to a minimum
All of these factors can greatly impact your sperm quality, so it’s important that you do your best to follow a healthy lifestyle and make changes where necessary. A fertility specialist will be able to guide you further.
Discuss sperm freezing with IVF Matters
At IVF Matters, we aim to support all of our patients through every step of their fertility journey — which is why we offer sperm-freezing services at our clinic.
If you’re looking to start your fertility journey or want to look into preserving your fertility via sperm freezing, book a free advisory call with one of our fertility consultants. We’ll be happy to explain how everything works and provide you with any additional support that you may need.