There are so many decisions to make when you decide to pursue IVF. Depending on your scenario, and the presence of male infertility factor(s), one of the questions may be, “should we use fresh or frozen sperm for our IVF cycle?” The good news is that – in almost all cases – pregnancy and live birth rates are the same for both fresh and frozen sperm with IVF-ICSI cycles.
Using Frozen Sperm for IVF
If the husband is unable to produce fresh sperm on the day of oocyte retrieval due to stress or situational impotence, a frozen sample might salvage the IVF cycle.
Couples using repeat IVF cycles. While IVF can be successful the first time around, most couples find it requires multiple cycles before they enjoy a successful pregnancy and live birth. Using frozen sperm, rather than fresh sperm, reduces the number of male partner procedures with each successive IVF cycle. This increases both convenience and affordability.
IVF Pregnancy Success Rates Are Comparable Using Frozen or Fresh Sperm
To date, studies conclude that the rates for fertilization and pregnancy success rates are comparable between couples using frozen sperm and couples using fresh sperm samples. You can read, “A comparison of ICSI outcomes with fresh and cryopreserved epididymal spermatozoa from the same couples,” published in the Oxford Journals Human Reproduction, for a comprehensive analysis of multiple studies done using fresh and frozen sperm for IVF.
The cryopreservation of human semen provides an option for fertility preservation and the hope for progeny for men whose fertility is endangered by selective vasectomy, therapeutic surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or for those men whose occupation puts them at risk of losing their fertility. Given the opportunity to make this choice, patients often approach their condition more optimistically, feeling they have regained some control over their future. More recently, sperm freezing is also suggested in men who are planning to have children later in life.
If a post-pubescent boy or man is diagnosed with a cancer or requires a medical treatment that might compromise fertility, freezing sperm can be a smart way to preserve fertility down the road, similar to female fertility preservation options.
Similarly, active military personnel who are sent into combat zones may opt to have their sperm frozen in case a war injury or exposure to combat zone toxins compromises their future fertility potential.
In light of the current reports about the sexual transmission of the Zika virus and the devastating consequences on the offspring, men who are planning to travel to an area with active Zika virus transmission are strongly encouraged to consider semen banking. Health Canada currently recommends that men should not initiate a pregnancy for six months after travelling to a Zika virus active region. Men who bank their semen prior to travel will be able to freely use these samples to build their family without any concerns regarding the transmission of the Zika virus.
On the first visit, an assessment is performed to assess the sperm quality and screen for infectious diseases. Semen could be also stored on the first visit. Additional deposits may be needed according to the sperm quality and the patient future needs. Each visit must be preceded by a period of abstinence from ejaculation.
The blood and semen screening done initially is required to ensure that the stored specimens will not contaminate others with infectious diseases. Separate, dedicated, quarantined tanks are available for those patients with infectious diseases.
The clinical application of semen freezing has been demonstrated to be a proven and effective method of treatment for those individuals concerned with impending infertility. Data indicates that long-term semen storage does not reduce fertilizing capacity. It had been demonstrated that little or no loss of cryosurvival occurs after 25 years of storage at -196°C although there may be a slight change in the quality of motility (i.e. non-progressive versus progressive).
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