We have more control over our fertility and reproductive lives than ever before – this is true for women AND men.
Today, men can save their semen in private storage banks, which means they have the option of future fertility where they may not have had it before.
Semen cryopreservation is commonly recommended prior to treatment for various cancers, but it is less well-known.
There are several reasons men should consider banking their sperm for future use:
- Cancer therapies: Therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation could harm sperm, leading to permanent sterility and infertility.
- Prostrate or testicular surgery: Men's reproductive organs can be damaged during testicular surgery or a prostatectomy, which could then affect sperm production.
- Vasectomy: Sometimes circumstances change. To preserve fertility and prevent the need for reversal surgery, consider banking semen before the procedure.
- High-risk occupations: Exposure to chemicals, radiation, extreme heat and other severe working conditions could lead to male infertility.
- Professional sportsmen - especially rugby players, cyclists and hockey players: Hours of intense training along with impact to the testes of pro-sportsmen may have negatively affect fertility.
- Use of assisted reproductive technologies: Couples using fertility medication, surrogacy, artificial insemination and IVF may want to conceive under more controlled conditions. Banking semen contributes to this.
- Absence while trying to conceive: Should a male partner be called away from home due to work commitments or other unforeseen circumstances, storing semen means that attempts to conceive - particularly when working with reproductive specialists - can continue.
Torsten Koehler is a cancer survivor, the founder of the "Love your Nuts" awareness project and the author of a book by the same name.
Koehler was terrified when faced with chemotherapy and its potential to have an impact on his ability to have children.
"It was inconceivable. I had chosen to become a teacher because I love children. I want to have children of my own.
After conducting some research, Koehler discovered the difference between sperm cells at the beginning of chemotherapy versus the sperm cells four weeks later.
"In the beginning, the cells were still teeming under the microscope, but after four weeks there wasn't a single cell left. It was good to know that 'the children' were being kept safe. It reassured and comforted me," said Koehler.
Dr Yvonne Holt, Next Biosciences medical director, explained that semen cryopreservation has been perfected since the procedure first emerged in the 1950s.
"Cryopreservation means human tissue or cells, like semen, are frozen and stored in a way that preserves living cells for many years.
"We store the semen samples at - 196 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen which is constantly monitored and replenished. In this state, semen can be stored almost indefinitely and successfully used in fertility treatments."
November is also known as 'Movember' - an initiative to raise funds for research into male specific diseases and educated the public about men's health issues.