We got answers to your most frequently asked questions about frozen sperm with Sanjay Kumar, CEO of Cryobank America. Cryobank America’s main goal is to create happy, healthy families by providing high-quality reproductive products to individuals and couples. They strive to set new industry standards in recruitment, screening, storage, and distribution of sperm, while also creating a comfortable, safe, and secure environment for their donors and clients.
Q: What does a sperm donor have to go through to become a sperm donor at Cryobank America?
SK: We follow strict guidelines set by the FDA for donor screening. Simply put we have a 5-step screening process:
- Initial Application (screens out basic requirements)
- Semen analysis and initial impressions (make sure their [sperm] counts are good and they are a good fit for the program)
- Family Medical history review and contract signing (all of the donor’s family medical history is reviewed and submitted to the medical director for review)
- Meeting with the doctor for a comprehensive review including mental health check, full physical, blood draws, and general discussions about family medical history.
- The doctor then discusses findings with management and either approves or denies the donor from entering the program.
Q: How does your team screen samples for freezing?
SK: Our laboratory is regulated by CLIA and both aspects are inspected every 2 years.
Q: How do you select sperm samples for freezing? Is there a certain motility rate or sperm count that needs to be reached?
SK: When selecting ideal sperm samples we have a low-end cutoff that must be met to retain the vials as standard IUI or ICI vials. With that being said, if the donor for some reason has lower counts on a particular day we don’t dispose of the sample but we have a unique classification system. When you see acronyms after the vial type (ART or IVF) that’s just part of the classification. For example, our IUI’s are guaranteed with at least 12.5 million motile cells. If the lab is processing and it doesn’t reach that it gets bumped down in class to an IUI-ART vial which will have between 6-12 million motile cells (these vials are ONLY to be used in a clinic setting) and if it is below 6 million it will be labeled as an IUI-IVF vial (IVF ONLY). So even with lower counts each vial/sample will serve a purpose.
Q: How many times can a sperm donor donate sperm?
SK:At most it is 3 times per week for around 1 year in the program. On average our donors visit us around 5-6 times per month.
- Does this vary across state lines? No
Q: What is the one thing you wish people knew about sperm donation?
SK: It is much harder for us to find donors than one may think. Granted we get lots of applications, each month (around 500) and we accept between 1-5 donors of those 500 applicants. If they don’t meet a single criteria, they will get disqualified. They are considered employees of the company, so we want to make sure they are a good reflection of that.
Q: What is the one myth you’d like to dispel about frozen sperm or sperm banks?
SK:One thing we get all the time is if we just accept anyone and the answer is an overwhelming NO! Our donors go through 5 phases of screening meetings with different people each time. They are then required to remain in the program for a minimum of 1 year or until they reach their vial quota. For ten years after they have exited the program we maintain contact with them and have them update their medical information. When the individual becomes a donor they are in it for the long haul!
Q: How much sperm does your team process in a year?
SK:In 2021 our lab-processed 3,357 vials of Donor Sperm.
How do you know when a sperm donor is not the right fit?
SK:There are lots of reasons they may not be the right fit. We are looking at them as employees of our company and essentially, they are, since they get taxed on their income. But we look at personality, education, medical history, and general demeanor. Additionally, we have them meet with our doctor, donor coordinator, and lab director. If anything seems off, then it would be marked, and they would be disqualified as a donor. The results are that you want them to reflect your company and they are “the face” of our company so we take that very seriously and are very thorough with that.
How many vials do most people purchase?
SK: We recommend purchasing2 vials per cycle and inseminating over the course of 2 days in your peak.If there is a donor you like and you see we are running low on vials we recommend purchasing as many as you feel comfortable with since we may not have additional vials in the future. Unfortunately, we do not have an unlimited supply and we do sell out of donors quickly.
Q: Have you seen an increase in demand for home insemination vials?
SK:When the pandemic first began was when we saw a major increase in home inseminations. Most clinics were closed to new clients and would only allow for patients that were either established or mid-cycle. This opened the door for more people to try at-home inseminations, a lot of the time with doctors’ approval and recommendation.
Q: What percentage of people using frozen sperm are Heterosexual vs. LGBTQ+?
SK: I would say it’s roughly around 80% LGBTQ+ and 20% Heterosexual.
Q: How does one freeze sperm?
SK:Freezing sperm generally needs to be done at a sperm bank (through self-masturbation). The on-site laboratory will then process the specimen and cryopreserve it.
Q: How is it that sperm can survive the thawing process?
SK:Once the lab processes the specimen it is treated with a special mixture of media that essentially creates a barrier around the cells to protect it from the sudden temperature change. Once frozen it is essentially frozen in time.
Q: How cold does the sperm/semen get in the tank?
SK:All specimens are preserved at -196 Celsius or -321 Fahrenheit
Q: What happens if you leave the sperm out too long after thawing? How long can sperm live?
SK:After thawing we do recommend using it quickly as cells will continually start to become non-motile. But if a vial is left out it can survive in the vial for 2 days if unopened. Once exposed to air that time can dramatically decrease.
Q: When does it make sense to order your sperm?
SK:At Cryobank America we offer 90 days of free storage so ordering early and securing your vials as you track your cycles is key. Donor sperm is not in unlimited supply and is actually the opposite. We sell out quickly and often we permanently sell out of a donor.
Q: What advice do you have for people who are considering using frozen donor sperm at home?
SK:This is one question we get a lot! When speaking with colleagues we have come to the consensus that timing is EVERYTHING! We recommend tracking your ovulation (not with an app) but with test strips and visiting with your OB often as you prepare for pregnancy. They will be able to identify any issues you may have before beginning this journey.
Q: How many babies are born each year from frozen sperm?
SK: Worldwide it can be between 30,000-60,000 births using donor sperm per year. This is across all sperm banks.
Q: How much does it cost to freeze sperm from your partner or a “known donor” at your sperm bank?
SK:There are several different options for storage. If you are storing for a sexually intimate partner, it is around $220 for a single collection since blood work and FDA quarantine rules don’t apply. This is known as an “Autologous Donor” and is also known as personal storage. When trying to use a friend or non-sexually intimate partner they need to be screened similar to how our donors are but just not as extensively (unless requested to do so. They will need to have a physical with our doctor, routine infectious disease blood work, and quarantines for 6 months for each sample given. The cost for this starts at $1400.
Q: What else would you like people to know about sperm banks?
SK:Sperm banks aren’t what they look like in movies. We filter out a lot of potential donors through our online application and then again through our screenings. So you won't find a line of people visiting our facility mainly because we use our filters to prevent individuals from visiting without meeting the basic requirements.
Q: What is the best way to use frozen sperm with the Mosie Kit?
SK:When using frozen sperm with Mosie we recommend using 2 vials per insemination with either IUI or ICI vial types. When the vials arrive, you will want them to thaw for around 15 minutes or until liquified. You will then pour the contents of the vial into the cup provided. Other helpful and important things are to use ovulation predictor kits or tests such as the Mosie Baby Ovulation Tests to make sure you are inseminating in your fertile window.
What is the success rate with frozen sperm?
SK:The success rate of using Frozen sperm is roughly around 25%-45% when tracking properly.