Sex Talk

Who should consider freezing their sperm?

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your questions about sexual health

17 February 2019 - 00:02
The way to look at sperm cryopreservation is as a form of insurance against conditions that could lead to male infertility.
The way to look at sperm cryopreservation is as a form of insurance against conditions that could lead to male infertility.
Image: 123RF/Burgstedt

Q: I've recently heard about sperm freezing. How does it work and who should consider it?

A: Sperm cryopreservation and banking has become a widely available and accepted part of medical technology. Though there may be difficulties in uptake for some based on bioethical considerations, spiritual and cultural beliefs, this option has proved to be successful and contributes in an immense way to many people having a chance to get pregnant and have a baby.

The reasons for storage are so varied and not always related to having a medical condition necessitating the procedure. Those in high-risk occupations or sport may want to protect their sperm in case there is a chance that an injury could affect reproductive health.

Some vasectomy patients store sperm prior to their procedure in case they may one day choose to have a child.

Patients who have been diagnosed with certain cancers may store their sperm prior to undergoing cancer treatments. Some treatment modalities such as radiation, chemotherapy or surgery may render them sterile.

People who are transitioning from male to female may also choose to store their sperm. It is best to do so early in the transition phase as oestrogen can impact the quality of sperm.

The way to look at cryopreservation is as a form of insurance. Though at the end of the day sperm is not the only reason for infertility, the more risks one has of future male infertility the better it may be to consider this method if one wants to have children in future.

Ongoing research has aided in the development of more sophisticated procedures and techniques for the freezing and storing of human semen.

Cryogenic laboratories have been able to maintain cryopreserved human semen in storage for over 30 years and semen stored for 19 years has been used to achieve a pregnancy. Scientific literature shows conclusively that sperm motility, viability and morphology are not affected by proper long-term cryopreservation.

Choosing a certified laboratory will ensure proper protection during the freezing and thawing process and the maintenance of semen in a frozen state over an extended period.

• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, Disa Clinic, safersex.co.za.

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