Pre-vasectomy sperm storage: should you freeze your sperm?
LAST UPDATED: Jun 06, 2022
4 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
A vasectomy is a simple, effective, long-term method of male birth control. But what if you change your mind about having children years down the line? Sperm freezing is an increasingly popular step that some men take to preserve their option for having a biological child in case they change their minds.
Read on to learn more about how and why you might consider freezing sperm before a vasectomy.
Should I freeze my sperm before a vasectomy?
Men freeze sperm to keep the option of having a biological child at a later time.
They may be undergoing medical treatment that damages fertility; they might plan to have children later in life but want to minimize the chance that their sperm health or fertility would be compromised by age; or they may be undergoing a vasectomy and want to preserve some sperm in case they change their minds about having children (Pennings, 2021; Peterson, 2021)
A vasectomy is a male birth control method. It involves a simple outpatient surgery that blocks or cuts the small tubes in your scrotum (called the vas deferens) that carry sperm to your testicles (Patel, 2016). Over half a million men in America get them each year (Ostrowski, 2018). It’s considered a permanent method of birth control because it lasts forever (unless you choose to have a vasectomy reversal, which can sometimes restore your fertility).
Many men are happy to get a vasectomy to ensure a pregnancy-free future. Other men might feel pretty sure they don’t want a child at this moment but aren’t sure about committing to a child-free future. In this case, you may want to freeze sperm before a vasectomy. For example:
If you’re single or may one day have a different partner, you may meet someone who wants children or who changes your mind about having children.
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you may feel differently about having children when you get older.
If these kinds of situations apply to you, it might be a good idea to freeze your sperm as a backup plan before you have a vasectomy.
How does sperm freezing work?
Freezing sperm is actually a pretty simple process. You can do it using an at-home sperm testing and freezing kit, or you can do it directly with a fertility clinic or sperm bank. Some basic steps can include:
Having a discussion with your healthcare provider. They can help you decide if pre-vasectomy sperm storage is the right step for you.
Getting screened for STIs
Having sperm assessed. A semen analysis will help your provider know if your fresh sperm are healthy by looking at their shape (morphology), ability to move well (motility), and sperm concentration (sperm count).
Choosing a location to store your sperm
Filling out paperwork
Giving a semen sample. If you’re using a sperm bank, a sample can be given on-site or brought from home. If you’re using an at-home kit, you can put the sample right in the kit and put it in the mail. You can collect sperm from masturbation, or a healthcare provider can do direct sperm retrieval from your testes, which would happen in a clinic (more on that below).
How do I access my semen samples?
If you later decide to have a child, you can let your sperm bank know that you want to make a withdrawal, and you and a partner can work with a fertility specialist to use frozen sperm to have a baby through intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
It’s effective, too—sperm lasts for decades when frozen. Recent data on frozen sperm quality shows that sperm samples frozen 15 years ago have a survival rate of 74% (meaning that most sperm survived freezing and could potentially be used to conceive a baby) (Huang, 2019).
Choosing a sperm bank
There are a few types of sperm banks (also called cryobanks) to choose from for storing sperm.
You can choose an at-home kit, which is sent out to be frozen with liquid nitrogen and stored at a sperm bank. These kits are mailed to your home, and after you collect your sperm sample, you mail them back to the company that will analyze, freeze, and store your sperm for you.
Or, you can choose to use a fertility clinic or in-person sperm bank. This kind of sperm banking might involve a sit-down visit with a provider, giving a semen sample for analysis (to make sure you have healthy sperm), and giving sperm collection samples for preservation.
How much does it cost to store sperm?
If you pay out of pocket, the cost to freeze sperm is generally a few hundred dollars for every sample you freeze. Aside from the initial freezing process, the sperm bank storage fee tends to cost a few hundred dollars per year.
Many health insurance companies will cover sperm banking if it’s done for medical reasons or for problems with male fertility, but they may not cover it before a vasectomy because the procedure could be considered optional (Pennings, 2021).
What if I’ve already had a vasectomy?
If you’ve already had a vasectomy, you may still be able to retrieve and freeze your sperm with direct sperm retrieval from your testes. This is a procedure done in a clinic.
A vasectomy reversal procedure might also be an option for you. It’s an elaborate surgical procedure done to reconnect the vas deferens, and only some providers are trained to do it (Patel, 2018).
Between 3–6% of men who have had vasectomies choose to reverse them, either because they want to have a child after all or because they experience post-vasectomy pain.
There is no guarantee that you’ll be fertile again after this procedure, but the odds are good. Sperm usually returns to the ejaculate about 2–6 months after surgery, and it can happen faster or slower, depending on the individual. Pregnancy rates for basic vasectomy reversal range from 42% to 92%, depending on the female partner’s age (Witherspoon, 2021).
Ultimately, whether or not you should freeze your sperm before having a vasectomy is a personal decision. But if you’re on the fence about kids or think you may want them in the future, freezing your sperm is a relatively straightforward process that may be worth considering.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Huang, C., Lei, L., Wu, H., et. al. (2019). Long-term cryostorage of semen in a human sperm bank does not affect clinical outcomes. Fertility and Sterility, 112 (4), 663–669. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.06.008. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31371041/
Ostrowski, K. A., Holt, S. K., Haynes, B., et. al. (2018). Evaluation of vasectomy trends in the United States. Urology , 118 , 76–79. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2018.03.016. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0090429518302693
Patel, A. P. & Smith, R. P. (2016). Vasectomy reversal: A clinical update. Asian Journal of Andrology , 18 (3), 365–371. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.175091. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854082/
Pennings, G., Couture, V., & Ombelet, W. (2021). Social sperm freezing. Human Reproduction , 36 (4), 833–839. doi:10.1093/humrep/deaa373. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/36/4/833/6104812?login=true
Peterson, A. M. & Singh, M. (2021). Fertility preservation in benign and malignant conditions. StatPearls . Retrieved on May 22, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK576435/
Witherspoon, L. (2021). Fertility treatment options after vasectomy. British Columbia Medical Journal, 63 (2), 62–66. Retrieved from https://bcmj.org/articles/fertility-treatment-options-after-vasectomy