There are a number of reasons people look to preserve their fertility into the future. One reason is to preserve fertility until after cancer treatment or gender-affirming hormone treatment (GAHT), and another is for people who think their fertility may decline before they are ready to have children.
Sperm can also be frozen as back up for fertility treatment, for people who think their fertility may decline before they are ready to have children, or as ‘insurance’ before a vasectomy.
Access to publicly funded fertility preservation for the retrieval, freezing and long term storage of sperm is available for people whose fertility will be permanently impaired by publicly funded treatment for medical conditions, such as by cancer treatment or GAHT.
Options for fertility preservation may exist prior to and after cancer treatment, however it is very important that if you have time before you start your treatment, you speak with a fertility specialist - to ensure you have the full picture. Many options for fertility preservation may be funded through the public health system.
Sperm freezing is straight forward and many people will have enough sperm in one ejaculate for several IVF cycles. If there are enough good quality sperm after thawing then the first approach may be to try IUI treatment, keeping some sperm in reserve for IVF later, if IUI is not successful. If you want to consider IUI as an option, you will almost certainly need to freeze three or more semen samples.
During a vasectomy: Sperm can sometimes be banked during a vasectomy reversal by taking sperm from the epididymis during the operation.
Surgical sperm retrieval: Sperm are usually frozen for future use during surgical sperm retrieval (SSR). Sperm obtained in either of these ways will need to be used as part of IVF treatment using sperm microinjection (ICSI).
Seeing a counsellor: Our counsellors are here when you want to explore issues arising from storing sperm, eggs, or embryos, and when you need support.
- Access to publicly funded fertility preservation for the retrieval, freezing and long term storage of sperm is available for people whose fertility will be permanently impaired by publicly funded treatment for medical conditions, such as by cancer treatment or GAHT.
- Sperm storage before cancer treatment or similar treatment is nearly always publicly funded if you have no biological children. You generally have to pay for sperm stored as back up for fertility treatment, and always for storage before vasectomy.
Why freeze and store sperm?
Many treatments for cancer or gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) can have the potential to affect your ability to conceive naturally. This risk is influenced by the type and extent of your disease, or the gender affirming treatment being undertaken*.
Sperm can be frozen and stored long-term for people who face losing their fertility due to medical treatments.
*For more information about your individual fertility risk please talk to your Oncologist, Endocrinologist or other appropriate specialist.
Using frozen sperm
There are two types of treatment when using frozen sperm- the choice depends on the number and quality of the sperm collected, and whether the cycle includes donor oocytes and/or surrogacy.
Sperm freezing Sperm freezing is straight forward and many people will have enough sperm in one ejaculate for several IVF cycles. If there are enough good quality sperm after thawing then the first approach may be to try IUI treatment, keeping some sperm in reserve for IVF later if IUI is not successful. If you want to consider IUI as an option, you will almost certainly need to freeze three or more semen samples.
Sperm freezing before cancer treatment or GAHT is covered by the Ministry of Health for those who have no biological children. However, we do need a referral letter from your Oncologist, Endocrinologist or other specialist indicating that your cancer and/or treatment could impact your fertility in the future.
For those covered by public funding, sperm can also be stored for up to ten years FREE of charge if your ability to conceive naturally is permanently affected.
Good to know
- Storage time limit: The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act limits storage of sperm, eggs or embryos to a maximum of ten years initially. The clinic can help you apply to the ethics committee if you want to extend storage before you reach the ten year limit. More info here
- Consent: You will need to sign a consent form as part of banking sperm, eggs or embryos.
- Keep you contact details up to date with the clinic: We will try to contact you each year to see if you still want to store your sperm, eggs or embryos. We may discard material if you become behind in paying storage fees, or we can’t contact you after 2 years. Update your details here.
- You don’t need to see a doctor if you want to bank sperm, although we encourage you to do so. If you choose not to, you can talk to an embryologist at your closest Fertility Associates clinic about your options. Choose your clinic here.
To find out more about preserving your sperm for future use:
- Book an appointment with one of our fertility doctors, to ask any further questions you may have, and talk through how your sperm might be used in the future.
- Read our pathways booklet, relevant sections can found below in our Helpful Information.