Through the years, the media attention for egg freezing and fertility preservation has been solely centered on women. However, unbeknownst to many, men can and should freeze their sperm too!
The process for sperm freezing is simpler than freezing eggs. All men really have to do is produce a sample and pay for the storage.
Sperm freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is a procedure of preserving healthy sperm cells at very low temperatures for use at a future date. Sperm are frozen using a special media that keeps sperm in liquid nitrogen at around minus 196°C. There is no concrete evidence that shows when a sperm sample expires, but there have been babies born from 20-year-old frozen sperm samples.
For ages, women have lived under pressure from the inevitable fertility time bomb that ticks as you age. However, according to research, this time bomb extends to men’s fertility, as well.
In an article published by Maturitas, sperm banking is highlighted as an option for men who are planning to delay fatherhood. It is also an excellent option for those persons who are planning to undergo gender affirmation surgery but desire biological children in the future.
While infertility and potential complications in an aging woman is common knowledge, similar factors have not been well studied in aging men, and because there are relatively few studies that have, the effects of advancing paternal age on sperm quality are not much discussed in the mainstream consciousness or media. However, the study suggests a decline in fertility and increased risk of gestational diabetes, preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction, and other pregnancy complications in children conceived from sperm derived from older dads.
Furthermore, evidence shows that children born to older men could have increased risk of chromosomal and non-chromosomal birth defects and an increased incidence of childhood autism and cancers.
So, when should a man consider having his sperm samples stored and frozen? Well, I have come up with a few good reasons as to who and why some guys should consider sperm freezing method.
Guys With Only One Testicle
Men usually have two sperm-producing testicles. However, there may be a few instances where some of them only have one, or if they still have two, only one may be functional.
- Cryptorchidism – This is when one testicle is descended and the other is still undescended.
- Congenital – This means that some men are simply born with just one testicle.
- Surgically Removed – A testicle can be surgically removed for various reasons like injuries or tumors.
Having only one testicle rarely affects a man’s fertility. It can, however, affect a man’s sperm count, the amount of sperm a man can produce. So if you are in doubt, it might be the time to get a semen analysis and then decide if freezing your sperm for the future might be needed.
Guys Starting Hormonal Therapies
Nowadays, many men are prescribed testosterone replacement therapy to help them boost their physical strength, their sexual performance/stamina and their exercise results. While hormone therapy is great at achieving these results, it can have significant negative effects on male fertility. In fact, exogenous testosterone – whether it’s a gel, a pellet or an injection – suppresses and sometimes even completely shuts down the testicles’ ability to make sperm. Therefore, before initiating these therapies, it is important that men discuss their future fertility (childbearing) plans with their prescriber and strongly consider freezing some sperm, before committing themselves to starting what is essentially male birth control in many cases; and what is sometimes difficult to reverse, if they take hormone replacement for a long period of time.
Additionally, some over the counter performance supplements contain Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which is actually a metabolite of testosterone and like testosterone, can have similarly negative effects on male fertility, by suppressing or shutting down sperm production altogether.
Another group of persons who should consider sperm cryopreservation are those who are thinking about transitioning into being a woman. Freezing your sperm would be a great preservation option for you. I understand that children are often the least of one’s priorities during the transition but, just in case you should decide to start building your family later, sperm freezing is one way to help make sure that your options for biological children will be open someday. Ideally, try to freeze your sperm before you start taking any hormonal medication.
For some women who are transitioning from being born with testicles, the hormones you take during your transition may hinder you from producing biological children in the future. Orchiectomies, a procedure for removing testicles, can greatly cause fertility problems.
If you identify yourself as a transgender woman, or if transitioning is something you are contemplating, freezing your sperm should be an option that you consider, in order to produce children in the future.
Guys Undergoing Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy
Certain types of cancer and cancer treatments can affect one’s fertility. If a person with cancer decides to have a child, a plan must be made before taking any action. And this involves sperm preservation for men.
Before starting chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you should speak to a fertility doctor to discuss preservation options. Your fertility doctor will help you preserve your sperm samples so you can have the option to produce a child in the future. It is essential that your fertility doctor knows the type of cancer and the medication plan you will be on so your doctor could determine if those put your fertility at risk.
Guys Born With Small Testicles
A man’s testicle is an oval-shaped, sperm-producing organ with the scrotum. And its size varies from person to person. Usually, the size has little to no effect on one’s fertility. The average size for a testicle would be 1.8 inches to 2 inches. Small testicles have a size of less than 1.4 inches.
The testicles are there for two reasons: (1.) Sperm production, (2.) Testosterone production. Since sperm cells come from your testicles, your sperm count would be dependent on the size of your testicles. Having small testicles would likely mean that your sperm count may not be as high as those with average-sized testicles. However, smaller sized testicles can still yield normal fertility when compared to larger-sized testicles.
There are many reasons why men should start preserving and freezing sperm. In this article, I’ve listed a few major factors that people consider when planning and building their families. Guys should definitely consider freezing their sperm just to make sure that you have your options wide open when the time comes. Although having kids may not be your priority now, who is to say that it will not be your priority at a later date.
In a world where career advancement and innovation are primary goals, choosing to conceive or have kids much later in life has become commonplace. Whether infertility is caused by older age or not, about 7% of couples experience infertility related to sperm fitness/health. The first part of this article tackled the possible implications of older age to the risks of various conditions in the future child. These risks may be small, but men can find peace of mind in freezing their healthy sperm now for use later — a convenience you should never pass up!