frozen donor sperm
1 Replies
ZMom2Bee - April 9

I am trying to get some information about how long sperm can be frozen and still be viable. We will be undergoing IVF with anonymous donor eggs (fertile 25-year old) and may need to use donor sperm as well. We are open to using ICSI if needed.

We have located two potential sperm donors that possess every criteria we are looking for, medically and otherwise. Both seem ideal, would involve no compromises for us in what we want, and their fecundity is well established. Only problem is, samples from both donors are from early to mid nineties, so have been frozen for 10-12 years.

From what I have read, theoretically, sperm can be frozen almost indefinitely, certainly for long periods of time. I have read that almost all the damage that will occur happens in the first 48 hours. My doctor agrees that, in theory, it should be fine, but recommended that if possible, I try to find a donor with samples no more than three years old---just in case---unless there is some other compelling reason to choose one of these donors. I believe the concern is that even if there are adequate motile sperm after thaw, there may be some damage that cannot be seen with the eye. He said it is difficult to “prove” a sperm sample is good, even if someone gets pregnant, because fertility is dependent on factors from both parties and is highly complex.

Well, clearly there are some strong reasons to use one of these donors, but none are as compelling as making sure we are successful with our cycle. This is our “one shot,” and we don’t want to fail to take home a baby because we were stuck on using a particular sample that had been frozen so long it was no longer viable. The whole point of using donor sperm is to use sperm that is optimal.

I have been to numerous sperm bank sites, and most of the potential donors do not have family healthy histories that are appealing to us, and are eliminated before we even get to evaluating other criteria. Or no health information is available without paying $15-18 for a profile. That would become very expensive very quickly.

So I am back to wondering, how much of an issue is the length of time sperm has been frozen? What are our risks? I know there have been reported cases on ICSI successfully performed with 13 year old sperm, even a child being born from 21 year old sperm, but I don’t know what is the normal age range for samples being successfully worked with in IVF labs. In your experience, is it common for sperm banks to ship samples that have been stored this long? (I would not have ever known if I didn’t ask.)

I plan to call the sperm bank and ask them (1) what is their cut-off for sample age, (2) how was this determined, (3) is QC testing periodically performed (4) has either donor had samples shipped recently that have resulted in pregnancies. What else should I ask? What is your view on this matter?

Thanks so much for your input!


Dr Smith - April 11

As far as I know, frozen sperm can be stored indefinately. I have personally worked with sperm frozen for 10 years and it resulted in a IVF/ICSI pregnancy. ICSI was required because the progressive motility of the sperm was only fair. As long as you are O.K. with performing ICSI (if necessary), then I see no reason for you to consider the length of time the sperm have been frozen in your decision. However, I would suggest that you order two vials frozen on two different days - just in case there is a problem with one of the vials.

I can't think of any other questions to ask the sperm bank besides the four you were planning to ask.



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