Sperm Collection and Storage

Sperm collection and storage, a process often referred to as sperm cryopreservation or sperm banking, is a procedure used to preserve sperm for future use. Here’s a general overview of how this process typically works:

Collection

  1. Masturbation: The most common method for collecting sperm is through masturbation, usually done in a private room at a fertility clinic or sperm bank. The individual is asked to ejaculate into a sterile container. It’s important to ensure that the entire ejaculate is collected for maximum sperm retrieval.
  2. Alternative Collection Methods: In cases where masturbation isn’t possible or effective, alternative methods may be used. These include:
    • Electroejaculation: Often used for individuals with certain medical conditions or spinal cord injuries, this technique uses a mild electrical current to stimulate ejaculation.
    • Surgical Retrieval: Techniques like Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) or Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) are used when sperm can’t be obtained through ejaculation. These procedures involve retrieving sperm directly from the testicles or epididymis.

Analysis

Once collected, the semen sample is analysed in a laboratory. The analysis assesses:

  • Sperm Count: The number of sperm present in the sample.
  • Motility: The ability of sperm to move efficiently.
  • Morphology: The shape and structure of the sperm.
  • Viability: The proportion of living sperm in the sample.

Freezing and Storage

  1. Freezing Process (Cryopreservation): The viable sperm are mixed with a cryoprotectant solution to protect the sperm from damage during the freezing process. The sample is then frozen using liquid nitrogen, which rapidly brings the temperature down to -196°C (-320.8°F). This extreme cold essentially halts all biological activity, preserving the sperm.
  2. Long-term Storage: The frozen sperm is stored in cryovials or straws in liquid nitrogen tanks. It can remain viable for many years, although the exact duration can vary. Some studies suggest that frozen sperm can remain viable for decades without significant degradation in quality.

Using the Stored Sperm

When the individual decides to use the stored sperm, the sample is carefully thawed and used in assisted reproductive techniques such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), depending on the fertility needs and circumstances.

Considerations

  • Timing: It’s recommended to abstain from ejaculation for 2-3 days prior to the collection for optimal sperm quality.
  • Legal and Administrative Aspects: There are consent forms and legal paperwork involved, outlining the terms of use, storage, and disposal of the sperm.
  • Cost: There are costs associated with collection, analysis, freezing, and storage. These can vary depending on the facility and region.

It’s important to note that sperm banking should be done at a certified fertility clinic or sperm bank to ensure the quality and safety of the process. Additionally, individuals should consult with a specialist for personalised advice and guidance.

Updated on January 12, 2024

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