Should You Freeze Your Sperm?

How to Freeze Sperm - Photo Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Madelyn Goodnight / Getty Images

With more people considering egg freezing these days, there's also the question of whether or not to freeze (or bank) sperm. Cryopreservation is a fancy word for sperm freezing or sperm banking. Essentially, it entails the collection, freezing, and storage of sperm for future use. The frozen sperm can be thawed out later and used in fertility procedures like intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Who Should Consider Freezing Their Sperm?

Anyone can freeze sperm if they want to.

“If having a genetic tie to a child might be something that’s important to you in the future, then it’s [something] to do to give you more options,” says Susan Hudson, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist with the Texas Fertility Center.

While cryopreservation is an option for anyone who wishes to explore it, there are certain groups of individuals who especially might want to speak with their healthcare provider about this procedure.

People Undergoing Cancer Treatments

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can lead to what a 2019 study called “reproductive dysfunction.” Cancer treatment can be life-saving, of course, but it can also contribute to fertility issues. That’s why cryopreservation is widely recommended to aid fertility preservation for people who have cancer.

People Who Want to Delay Childbearing

Age-related male infertility may not get as much press as female infertility, but it can become an issue, as pointed out by a 2011 study. Aging is associated with a decrease in semen quality and an increase in DNA fragmentation. If you’re not planning to start a family soon, but wish to have children down the line, you might want to consider freezing sperm.

People Who Are Transgender and Undergoing Hormone Therapy

Dr. Hudson recommends that people who are transgender consider freezing sperm before undergoing hormone therapy, such as estrogen. “It’s much better to freeze sperm beforehand so that if they decide they would like to have biological children, it’s available and we’re not worried about [sperm] production in the future,” she says.

Couples Who Spend Long Stretches of Time Apart

If you and your partner have to spend a lot of time apart, it could make finding those interludes for conception a little challenging. Think military deployments and jobs that take you away from home for weeks—or even months—while the clock is ticking.

People With High-Risk Jobs

Having a high-risk job might be another impetus for sperm freezing. “People who are in hazardous work environments—for example, those in the military or who might be exposed to toxins—should also consider freezing their sperm,” says Mark Leondires, MD, founder and medical director of Illume Fertility and Gay Parents to Be. It's not fun to think about the possibility of injury, bodily harm, or death on the job, but if you freeze sperm in advance, you know you'll be prepared if something unfortunate happens.

People With Certain Health Challenges

Jennifer Knudtson, MD, an OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologist with Aspire Fertility in San Antonio, Texas, suggests that people with erectile dysfunction also consider freezing their sperm. Having a frozen sample might take some of the pressure off before undergoing any fertility testing or procedures that require a sperm sample.

Similarly, people with a low sperm count could also consider freezing their sperm to make sure they have a sample when it comes time for a procedure like IVF.

How Cryopreservation Works

All you really need to worry about with sperm freezing is the donation part. The sperm bank staff will take care of the rest. But in case you’re curious, here’s how the process works.

Dr. Leondires explains that a semen sample needs to sit for approximately 30 minutes after collection so it can liquefy. Before it can be frozen, it has to undergo a comprehensive semen analysis. An andrologist (AKA a doctor specializing in male reproduction and sexual dysfunction) evaluates certain factors, such as volume, concentration, forward progression, PH, and motility.

Then it’s freezing time. A sperm-compatible cryoprotectant fluid is added to the sample to protect the sperm during the freezing process.

“The specimen then undergoes a slow freeze process where they are allowed to cool in the refrigerator at two to eight degrees celsius prior to being exposed to the extreme cold temperatures of liquid nitrogen,” Dr. Leondires says. “After 30 minutes, the samples are then submerged in the liquid nitrogen, where they remain until the patient is ready to use them.”

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the sperm needs to remain frozen at -196 degrees celsius.

How Much Sperm to Freeze

You may wonder how much sperm you need to freeze. “We need about 10 million sperm in a specimen for insemination to have a reasonable chance of success,” says Dr. Hudson. “It’s going to vary from person, and goal to goal.”

A sample might contain 5-20 million sperm, which can be divided into several vials, although some experts suggest that, ideally, a frozen sample would contain between 10 and 20 million sperm.

For cancer patients, the treatment timeline can affect how much sperm you can actually collect to store, according to Dr. Knudtson. If you have cancer and your physician is urging you to start treatment like chemotherapy or radiation right away, you may not have a lot of time to collect multiple vials of sperm. She adds that she prefers to store three to six vials, since one IVF cycle typically requires one vial of sperm.

Why so much? Since not all the sperm will survive the freezing process, you need to make sure you have enough for the procedure you choose. For example, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), about 50,000 motile (swimming) sperm are usually placed in the petri dish with an egg during an IVF fertilization procedure.

How Much Does It Cost to Store Frozen Sperm?

How long you’ll need to store your sperm is up to you—but fortunately, you don't need to worry about freezer burn. “At this point, there is not a time limit for when [the sperm] has to be used,” says Dr. Knudtson.

In fact, research shows that babies have been born from fertility procedures containing sperm that had been frozen for up to 40 years.

But you do have to pay to store the frozen sperm, so don’t forget about the costs associated with cryopreservation. You’ll probably have to pay a one-time fee for the semen collection and analysis, and then you’ll pay for the storage costs. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the costs can
vary, but you can probably expect to pay somewhere between $100 and $500 for storage every year.

The cost for collection can vary, depending on what's required. For example, one health system in Oregon charges $150 for the initial preservation of the first sample. A large sperm and egg bank in Orlando, Florida, charges around $900, which also includes a sperm storage consultation fee and a mandatory infectious disease testing fee.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re on the fence about cryopreservation, talk to your healthcare provider, especially if you have questions about your fertility status in the future. Freezing your sperm is a very personal decision and you may want to take some time to reflect on the process as well as its associated costs.

However, in some cases, such as impending cancer treatments, you may not have the luxury
of time. “If you have questions, consult your physician,” says Dr. Knudtson. “Don’t be afraid to ask.”

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jennifer Larson
Jennifer Larson is a seasoned journalist who regularly writes about hard-hitting issues like Covid-19 and the nation's ongoing mental health crisis, as well as healthy lifestyle issues like nutrition and exercise. She has more than 20 years' of professional experience and hopes to log many more.