The number and quality of sperms are the main parameters of male fertility. Unlike females, age seldom affects fertility in males. It is so because the sperm quantity and quality are hardly influenced as the man grows older. Unfortunately, some men, such as cancer patients, are at risk of losing their fertility in future due to extensive sperm damage. A technique called sperm banking has been devised to preserve their ability to conceive.

Understanding Sperm Banking

As the name suggests, sperm banking refers to the advanced technique of cryopreservation (freezing) of sperms for future use. Men undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are likely to lose their fertility with time. It would be feasible to approach an IVF Centre in Delhi for sperm banking before proceeding with cancer treatment. The stored sperms can be used years later to aid conception with reproductive techniques such as IUI, IVF or ICSI.

Timing is vital as this has to be done at the earliest, particularly if cancer is at an advanced stage. In fact, the semen sample needs to be collected right after the cancer diagnosis. The reason is that the genetic material in the developing sperm is at risk of being damaged by these treatments. On the other hand, the samples collected before the treatment begins are safe enough. It is so because mature sperms are resistant to radiation damage.

Sperm Banking: The Procedure

When a patient visits an infertility clinic in Delhi for sperm banking, he is first prescribed some diagnostic tests. Some simple blood tests are conducted to check for infections. Advanced tests for sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and hepatitis are also done. Following this, the man has to sign a consent form covering all the aspects of sperm banking. This form includes clauses related to period of sperm banking. It also defines the terms and conditions related to the use of the sperm in the event of the man’s death.

After these formalities are done with, the semen sample is collected. This is usually done after a man abstains from sexual activity for a period of 48 hours. It ensures that a good quantity of sperms is available for banking. The patient is asked to collect the semen in a sterile container. The sample is then sent for testing to check the sperm count, motility and morphology. If everything is normal, the sample is labeled and sent for freezing. Most infertility clinics in Delhi recommend taking multiple semen samples (3 or more) to be on the safe side. They keep a gap of at least 2 days between the collections of two consecutive samples.

The semen samples are placed in small containers called cryovials along with a chemical which protects them while they are frozen. The vials are first placed in a freezer to reach to a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius. Following this, they are subjected to liquid nitrogen vapor and then lowered in a liquid nitrogen storage tank at a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius. Here, these can be stored for an indefinite period of time as per the patient’s needs. The clinic charges an annual fee for storing the frozen sperm sample.

Use of Frozen Sperms for Assisted Reproduction

Once the couple is ready to start a family with the frozen sperms, they need to discuss the same with the infertility clinic in Delhi. The most feasible assisted reproductive technique will be decided for them and the sperms will be used accordingly. For those with multiple samples of healthy semen, IUI or artificial insemination comes forth as the best option. With this technique, the sperms are thawed and transferred into the womb with a soft catheter.

On the other hand, IVF may have to be used in cases there are female infertility issues too. Here, multiple eggs are retrieved from the woman’s ovaries after they are stimulated for egg production. These are then fertilized with thawed sperms to create embryos, which are transferred to the uterus. Once the embryo(s) implant in the uterus, pregnancy takes place.

In cases where the sperm count and quality are extremely poor, ICSI is to be used. ICSI or intracytoplasmic sperm injection involves direct injection of a single, healthy sperm into the female egg for fertilization. The embryo so formed is transferred in the uterus in a manner similar to IVF treatment. Even a single semen sample would be enough to achieve pregnancy with IVF or ICSI.

Sperm Banking- Are there health risks for babies born with frozen sperms?

Till date, thousands of babies have been conceived using frozen sperms and most of them are healthy. In fact, studies have proved that the risk of birth defects in such children is same as that for those conceived naturally. Similarly, it is important to know that most types of cancers do not run in families. So the chances of the risk of passing the cancer to the baby born using banked sperms are also minimal.

Overall, sperm banking is a ground-breaking technique which brings hope for the most hopeless cases. The success rate of IUI/IVF/ICSI with cryopreserved sperms is dependent on sperm quality as well as how well these have been banked. It is so because there are chances of damage to the sperm if freezing and thawing is not done with care. Additional factors like maternal age and health conditions may also influence the success rate. Therefore it is important to choose the best infertility clinic in Delhi, India for sperm banking.

Gaudium IVF is a renowned infertility clinic in Delhi which provides advanced and comprehensive treatment for all kinds of reproductive issues in men as well as women. Visit here for free second opinion from the award-winning infertility specialist in Delhi, Dr Manika Khanna.