What is Sperm Banking?
Sperm banking is the specialized cryopreservation and cryogenic storage of sperm for future use in reproduction.
What type of Sperm Banking is offered at the Victoria Fertility Centre?
The VFC only banks sperm for individuals and couples who intend to use the sperm for their own reproductive purposes. The VFC does not bank sperm for donation or for third-party donation to an infertile couple.
Who would benefit from Sperm Banking?
A patient or a couple may wish to bank sperm for the following reasons:
- To use as a back-up in infertility treatment when the sperm quality is known to be variable
- When a man whose partner is undergoing treatment at the VFC has difficulties collecting semen by masturbation
- To use in infertility treatment when the man may be absent during treatment (travels frequently or lives elsewhere)
- When sperm are being retrieved surgically from the man (e.g. “MESA”, “PESA” or “TESE” procedures)
- When the man is about to receive medical treatment which will/may affect his fertility
- For men in "high risk" occupations where they are at greater risk of testicular injury
How will I know if the banked sperm sample is good enough?
Comprehensive semen assessment
When the laboratory receives the sperm sample, various tests will be performed to assess its quality. The results of these tests will usually include: the volume and pH of the semen, the number of sperm, the proportion of sperm moving and the quality of their movement, as well as the % of sperm with normal shape and an evaluation of the abnormal shapes present. If a more detailed assessment of the sperm sample is required, a Sperm Functional Assessment (SFA) can also be booked. For the SFA the laboratory will do further testing on the sperm sample and will use some of the frozen sperm to perform a “trial wash”. The SFA will use between 2 and 4 of the "straws" of the stored sample, but it will provide valuable information about the suitability of the stored sample for various treatments such as IUI, IVF or ICSI.
A man can sometimes produce antibodies against his own sperm cells, and these antibodies may interfere with the sperm's ability to fertilize an egg. The presence of these antibodies will also be tested for. Most sperm samples will result in 5 —15 straws being stored.
Sperm freezing and post-thaw assessment
To help protect the sperm while they are being frozen, the sample is mixed with an equal volume of cryoprotectant solution. The diluted sample is then loaded into small plastic tubes ("straws") for freezing. Each individual straw is labelled with the man's name, the date, his chart number and a unique lab number.
After the sperm sample has been cryopreserved and stored, one of the straws will be thawed and assessed. The results will include the number of sperm in the thawed sample, the number of sperm moving and the quality of the movement. The total number of motile sperm expected, in each straw, will be calculated. This information is valuable for determining how many straws will need to be thawed to provide enough motile sperm for any future fertility treatment. If an SFA was booked then further information will be available about the stored sample’s suitability for future fertility treatment options.
What if I only have a small number of sperm or if the sample is low in volume?
The laboratory at the VFC will determine whether it is advisable to bank additional sperm samples. The VFC recommends that (whenever possible), two separate samples be banked. If two samples do not provide a sufficient number of straws, the VFC laboratory may suggest banking a third specimen. In some cases (such as for pre-treatment or surgically retrieved sperm), only one sample may be available. The laboratory will store the sperm appropriately to maximize the amount available for future use. The laboratory will also recommend how to use the sample and for which fertility treatments it is best suited, advice that can be made more precise if an SFA was performed.
Can cancer patients bank sperm once chemotherapy has started?
The VFC recommends banking sperm before treatment is started. If this is not possible, banking can still take place but the treatment may have affected the quality of the sperm. The VFC would need to know the type and duration of treatment at the time of banking.
What other tests do I require in order to bank sperm?
The VFC requires that any patient storing samples have blood tests done for some diseases (HIV, hepatitis, etc.). All of the stored samples must be free of these diseases in order to ensure the safety and quality of our storage bank. Most fertility patients will have already been tested in the course of their infertility investigations. Some patients may not be able to be tested prior to banking (especially in the case of cancer patients). If the results are unavailable, you will be contacted in order to receive these results or to be provided with a requisition to have this testing done.
How and when will I know the results of the Sperm Banking?
The results of the first sample will usually be available from the laboratory at VFC when you arrive to bank the second sample. Copies of the reports for Sperm Banking will be forwarded to your GP or fertility specialist (as indicated in your chart).
Where are the samples stored?
The samples are stored at VFC in locked and secure cryogenic storage containers. The containers are in the laboratory where they are always visible and their performance is checked weekly.
VFC also uses the most modern products available to ensure that the stored samples will not leak or be susceptible to any outside contamination while be frozen or while in storage.
What does Sperm Banking cost?
Sperm Banking is not a British Columbia MSP-covered service. It is a service offered only in specialized laboratories in specialist fertility centres. Please refer to the current VFC fee schedule for the cost of Sperm Banking, banking surgically-retrieved sperm, cryobank storage fees and for Sperm Functional Assessments.
How do I book for Sperm Banking?
You can book Sperm Banking at the reception desk of the Victoria Fertility Centre or you can call during office hours (9:00am to 12:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm).
Please note that semen samples for banking should be produced at the Victoria Fertility Centre.
Lubricants and collection of semen in condoms must be avoided as they contain contaminants which will kill the sperm.