What is semen cryopreservation?

Semen cryopreservation is a method used to preserve sperm by freezing it. Once thawed, the sperm are usually capable of fertilizing an egg and producing a healthy child. There are many reasons why men preserve their sperm, but men who undergo semen cryopreservation usually have some reason to believe that they will no longer be fertile in the future. Semen is usually collected and stored in semen storage facilities commonly known as sperm banks, where frozen semen can usually be used for years.

Preservation of semen samples through freezing is typically done through one of two methods. The method known as programmable slow freezing (SPF), typically involves freezing the sample slowly and in a carefully controlled manner. A newer method, known as vitrification, generally involves flash freezing the semen sample. Vitrification is considered a more viable option, as sperm generally survive the process more easily.

Frozen sperm can often be used to fertilize eggs for years after their initial storage. Most storage facilities offer semen cryopreservation clients the option of storing sperm for one to five years or longer. Sperm are usually frozen in a cryoprotective solution that contains ingredients such as sucrose, glycerol, and soy lecithin. This solution is believed to allow sperm to be successfully thawed and refrozen up to three times without causing significant damage.

Semen samples for cryopreservation are usually obtained by masturbation. Some facilities provide private areas where men can collect samples, while others allow collection to be done at home. Most facilities screen donors for contagious viral diseases before accepting sperm for freezing. Generally, two to five days of sexual abstinence are recommended before sample collection.

Men generally choose semen cryopreservation for a number of reasons. Some men can donate sperm that will be sold anonymously to women who wish to conceive without a male sexual partner. Men who undergo surgical sterilization are often advised to save their semen, in case they change their minds later and decide they want to father children. Men who are about to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments for testicular or other cancers may also want to store sperm in a storage facility, since cancer treatments can permanently damage fertility. Those who are exposed to high levels of radiation or toxic chemicals on a regular basis, such as in the workplace,

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