Did you know that almost 15% of couples of reproductive age are affected by infertility and have difficulty achieving a successful pregnancy?1 What’s more, male infertility is found to be the root cause of over 50% of infertility cases!2 So it becomes important for both partners to take responsibility for their reproductive health and participate equally in conversation about navigating infertility.
You may be wondering what is infertility, exactly? It is essentially described as the inability to conceive a child after one year or more of regular, unprotected sex. Amidst the gloomy statistics revolving around infertility, science presents a ray of hope for couples navigating through infertility through a wide array of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).
Let’s learn about some commonly used ART techniques and how sperm banking can help men prepare for these procedures!
What Is Assisted Reproductive Technology?
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is the collective term for the various complex medical procedures recommended and performed by your doctor to help you conceive a child.3 There are different types of ART procedures like In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) that can help you get pregnant successfully.
It is best to have a thorough discussion with your fertility expert if you are coping with infertility or any other reproductive issues. They may suggest any one of these ART techniques based on your and your partner’s fertility status. You can understand the details of the medically recommended ART method and make an informed decision.
In this article, we discuss the sperm banking or cryopreservation aspect with respect to assisted reproductive technology. Please note that your "female partner", who may or may not be your significant other or spouse, is frequently referred to in this article. We are trying to be inclusive of everyone who decides to use egg donors or surrogates to achieve a pregnancy. We do not intend to make the female partner’s role feel merely transactional.
What Is Sperm Banking?
Sperm banking is a fertility preservation service for men. It is the process of obtaining a semen sample from a man and then cryopreserving the sample for the purpose of achieving pregnancy down the road.4
Sperm banking or cryopreservation primarily involves:
- Sperm health analysis
- Careful washing and processing of the sample
- Freezing of the viable sperm
- Storing the specimen in cryo-vials in the laboratories
ART And Sperm Banking
You can consider cryopreservation of your sperm when trying to conceive a child with the help of different assisted reproductive technologies. The ART techniques involve manual delivery of the sperm (fresh sample or cryopreserved) to the female egg, be it in the female body for IUI or in a petri dish in the lab for IVF or ICSI.
Here, we concentrate on your possibilities for having a child through ART if it is suggested that you use your frozen sperm. To maximize your chances with ART, we recommend that you store up to 6 cryovials for every child as per LifeCell’s proprietary algorithm. With this storage rationale, you have 6 fertilization opportunities with 2 suitable treatment options.
Let’s dive deeper into the role of sperm banking in each of the treatment options/ ART techniques.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine Insemination is quite an uncomplicated assisted reproductive technology. The aim of performing IUI is to place the thawed and washed sperm beyond the cervix, into your female partner’s uterus around the time of ovulation. This shortens the passage to the fallopian tube and can help more sperm encounter the egg, thereby enhancing the chances of pregnancy.5
Semen quality and sperm quantity are significant factors in determining the outcome of this technique. Also, the number of cryo-vials frozen will determine how many IUI attempts can be made. Storing a higher number of frozen sperm vials leaves room for more attempts with IUI.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
The assisted reproductive method known as in vitro fertilisation involves extracting eggs from your female partner’s ovaries and fertilising them in a lab with your sperm. The resultant fertilised eggs or embryos are subsequently placed in the uterus, where the foetus develops and is carried until delivery.6 Advanced planning through testing and cryopreservation of sperm empowers you with the freedom to opt for this fertility option at the right time when you are ready to embrace parenthood.
Males who are unable to produce a sample due to health or time concerns or whose sample may not contain enough sperm for banking should nevertheless be urged to do so. That’s because as technology advances, you can opt for more niche IVF techniques like ICSI. This technology has the potential to overcome poor motility, poor morphology, or lower sperm count in semen.7 Let’s explore this technique in greater detail.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Fertilisation is now possible even with a minimal number of sperm because of the use of more contemporary assisted reproductive technologies, like Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Here, female eggs are harvested from the ovaries, much like in vitro fertilisation (IVF). However, the next step sways a little from traditional fertilization.8
During ICSI a single sperm (from a fresh or stored sample) is injected into your female partner’s egg cell using a small needle called the micropipette.9 The fertilised egg, also called the embryo, is allowed to grow in the lab for 1 to 5 days. Thereafter, it is transferred into the woman’s uterus (womb) for further growth.
Male reproductive health can be affected by numerous factors. It becomes essential to check your fertility status to achieve your reproductive goals and look for alternatives to preserve your fertility. Prompt semen analysis through at-home tests like SpermScore offers a convenient solution to monitor your fertility.
In addition, these tests can be useful to identify the best time to freeze your sperm while they are healthy for future use. The samples can then be used to achieve pregnancy whenever you are ready to embrace parenthood. With the development of assisted reproductive technologies like IVF, IUI, and ICSI and sperm banking solutions like SpermVault, your options for starting a family remain intact whenever you're ready.