16/10/2017 13:28 SAST | Updated 16/10/2017 13:28 SAST

Sperm Freezing in South Africa: 5 Things You Need To Know

Sperm cells can be preserved indefinitely.

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Frozen sperm for sperm bank

Sperm freezing is a procedure of freezing sperm samples so they can be used for pregnancy in future. It is also known as sperm banking or sperm cryopreservation.

Health experts say it's the most successful form of preserving a man's fertility.

Here are five things to know about the procedure in South Africa:

1. Who can freeze?

Commonly, it is men diagnosed with cancer who use this method to preserve their fertility. This is because cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells, can also damage sperm cells.

Local fertility clinic Medfem notes that fertility could also be affected by a number of things including certain types of surgery such as testicular surgery and vasectomy; illnesses such as diabetes, high risk occupations, and activities like sports. These issues could result in a man opting to freeze his sperm.

Men who just wish to delay conception, for career or other reasons, can also freeze their sperm.

2. How long can I freeze the sperm for?

Fertility lab Androcryos says this could be in excess of 20 years, depending on storage techniques used. Other labs say the sperm, normally stored in liquid nitrogen, can be preserved indefinitely.

An annual storage fee may be required.

3. How much does the procedure cost?

The cost varies from one fertility lab to the next and depends on treatments and tests are required.

According to Fembryo's website, semen freezing is R1,285 with R35.50 per straw. Frozen material storage is R1,800 per annum.

However, the entire process would likely include additional costs such as initial consultation fees, blood tests and semen analysis. Male blood tests could cost up to R4,000 while semen analysis could cost in excess of R2,000.

Members from medical aid schemes such as Discovery Health can get discounts on the freezing and storage costs, but such procedures are generally not covered by medical aids.

4. How can I use my sperm in the future?

It can be used to conceive through artificial insemination (AI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The success rate also depends on the female's fertility health.

READ: Are You Considering Egg-Freezing? Here's What You Need To Know

5. What if I've frozen sperm and no longer need it?

According to Androcryos, biological specimens are the property of the owner or whomever it's been left to in their last will and testament. A written request would be required in order to have the specimen destroyed.

READ: Thinking About IVF? Here's 5 Facts About Doing It In South Africa