Sperm cryopreservation allows men to preserve or bank sperm if they are anticipating:
- Radiation Therapy
- Exposure to Toxins
- Military Deployment
Sperm Viability after Cryopreservation
Approximately 50% of the motile sperm retain motility when thawed. Sperm count, percent motility, and post-thaw viability will vary for each semen sample. Poor quality specimens do not freeze as well as normal semen samples. The number of motile sperm pre-cryopreservation required for medically assisted reproduction techniques ranges from less than 10,000 (in vitro fertilization with micromanipulation) to 20 million (artificial insemination). We will thaw a small portion of the specimen shortly after cryopreservation to determine the percentage of motile sperm that are expected to survive cryopreservation. This information will be valuable to physicians should you need a medically assisted reproduction procedure in the future.
Morphological Evaluation of Sperm
Evaluation of sperm morphology is a method to measure sperm quality. A small sample of the specimen to be frozen is fixed onto a microscope slide and two hundred sperm are observed and rated according to a standard set of values for head shape, length, width and any other abnormalities that may be present. The ability of the sperm to fertilize an egg in vitro is correlated with the percentage of morphologically normal sperm in the ejaculate. This information will be important for selecting a medically assisted reproduction technique for future pregnancy attempts. A morphology slide will be retained by the Reproductive Testing Laboratory and will be evaluated upon physician request.
Conceiving with Cryopreserved Sperm
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Couples with normal, pre-cryopreservation, sperm parameters (20 million motile sperm and >50% motility) may be able to conceive with intrauterine insemination. For intrauterine insemination the cryopreserved sperm are thawed, washed, concentrated in a small volume and inserted into the female's uterus on the day of expected ovulation. This procedure may be performed in a physician’s office and is the least expensive medically assisted reproduction technique and has a pregnancy rate of 15% per cycle. The optimal number of post-thaw motile sperm for achieving a pregnancy with intrauterine insemination is 10 million/insemination. Couples may wish to try this method first, while reserving enough frozen sperm for use in the in vitro fertilization program if a pregnancy is not achieved through intrauterine insemination. Health insurance plans may cover some or none of these charges.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Couples with less than 20 million motile sperm cryopreserved are likely to require IVF and embryo transfer. IVF facilitates the process of fertilization by inseminating eggs outside the body. Embryos resulting from this process are transferred to the uterus 3 to 5 days after the egg retrieval. Just over half of the women who undergo egg retrieval and IVF achieve an ongoing pregnancy at the University of Iowa. Pregnancy rates following IVF-ET decrease as the age of the female partner or the individual contributing the eggs increases. The cost for an IVF-ET procedure can range from $11,000 to $13,000. Health insurance plans may cover some or none of these charges.
Scheduling, Collection, Cryopreservation, and Storage Procedures
You may schedule an appointment at the UIHC Reproductive Testing Laboratory for sperm cryopreservation by calling (319) 384-8354, ext. 1. Available appointment times are Monday-Friday, between 8:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. A physician requisition is required for all testing.
Before you store a semen sample you need to be tested for the following infectious diseases:
- HIV I/II Antibody
- Hepatitis B Surface Antigen
- Hepatitis C Antibody
- Rapid Plassmin Reagin (RPR)
If testing is done outside of UIHC, please have your referring physician’s office send us the test results.
Two to seven days of abstinence from ejaculation is recommended prior to the day of specimen collection to optimize the number of motile sperm in the ejaculate. You should schedule your appointments accordingly.
The Reproductive Testing Laboratory is located on the 4th floor of the Pomerantz Family Pavilion. Take elevator L to the 4th floor. The entrance to the Center for Advanced Reproductive Care will be to your right when you exit the elevator.
The specimen may be collected in one of our private rooms at the University of Iowa Hospital. In order to keep the specimen as sterile as possible, it must be collected into a sterile container by masturbation. The laboratory will provide a sterile, non-spermicidal lubricant if you require a lubricant.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that constitutes our legal agreement to freeze and store your sperm for each cryopreservation procedure.
The semen analysis will be completed approximately one hour after the specimen arrives at the laboratory. We evaluate the ejaculate volume, seminal fluid consistency, sperm count, and sperm motility. Following the analysis, the semen is diluted with a cryoprotectant to protect the sperm during cryopreservation and the specimen is transferred to cryovials. The average ejaculate will fill 1-3 vials. The sperm are then frozen in a controlled rate freezer and stored in a liquid nitrogen tank at -196o C. Sperm may be stored at this temperature indefinitely.
The UIHC Reproductive Testing Laboratory will store your cryopreserved sperm for an annual fee or you may ship the sperm to another laboratory or storage facility.
If requested, preliminary results may be faxed to the ordering physician as soon as they become available, usually within 24 hours. A final copy will be mailed within 7 business days to the ordering physician. Please contact the ordering physician for results.