Why do people store sperm?

  • For use with a spouse or sexually intimate partner
  • Medical diagnosis that may impact future fertility
  • Upcoming treatment or surgery
  • Gender affirming treatment
  • Fertility preservation
  • To be a donor from someone they know
  • Frequent travel while trying to conceive
  • For use with a surrogate
  • Now for an unknown reproductive partner in the future

How do I get started?

Please read about our Types of Accounts to identify the right account for you.  Our Client Depositor, Directed Donor and Known Donor pages outline the step for each account and how to get started.  Questions? Call us at 510.841.1858

What kind of account do I need?

The type of account will depend on who will be carrying the pregnancy and their relationship with the person storing their sperm.

If the recipient (person who will carry the pregnancy) is the spouse or sexually intimate partner of the storage client, then typically a Client Depositor account is set up. This account has minimal required FDA testing and no quarantine period.  Due to different regulatory requirements, vials stored by a Client Depositor cannot be used for surrogacy or any designated recipient that is not the spouse or partner for the storage client.

If the recipient is known to the storage client but is not their spouse or intimate partner, or if storage is for use with an unknown future recipient, a Directed Donor account is most frequently used. This account has the highest medical safety with extensive FDA required testing and screening as well as a six month vial quarantine with repeat STI testing required to release vials. This account is the most flexible and these vials, once released, can be used with partners, gestational carrier/surrogate,  and other arrangements.

A Known Donor account is the same as a Directed Donor in terms of FDA required testing and screening, however, the six month quarantine is waived. Instead of a six-month quarantine, a Known Donor is required to have STI testing every 7 days while making deposits.  Depending on screening and testing, our Medical Director may determine that the 6 month quarantine is required.

What are the legal considerations?

According to California Family Code §7613, “The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician and surgeon or to a licensed sperm bank for use in assisted reproduction by a woman other than the donor’s spouse is treated in law as if the donor is not the natural parent of a child thereby conceived, unless otherwise agreed to in a writing signed by the donor and the woman prior to the conception of the child.”

TSBC is a licensed sperm bank, and semen samples provided through our sperm bank fall under this statute. While this law provides complete legal protection to recipients inseminating with program donor sperm, there have been legal cases in which directed/known donors sued for, and were granted, parental rights to a child conceived through donor insemination.

Recipients and their directed/known donors can minimize the risk of possible legal challenges by going through a licensed sperm bank, but they are not guaranteed complete protection. We recommend that recipients and their directed/known donors consult with a lawyer in their state to create a written donor-recipient contract. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (1-800-528-NCLR) is a useful resource.

How does freezing affect sperm?

Approximately 50% to 80% of sperm die in the freezing process. Sperm survival varies a great deal from individual to individual and from collection to collection. We prepare a test thaw vial containing a small amount of semen from each stored sample. After at least 48 hours, we thaw this vial and take a sperm count to determine the sperm survival rate for that sample. (You can call us for test thaw results three days after your initial appointment). There is no research at this time on what can be done to increase the survival rate of an individual’s sperm during freezing.

How can I increase sperm count?

The most important step you can take to maximize your sperm count is to abstain from ejaculating for at least forty-eight hours before each appointment. Forty-eight hours is the minimum amount of time it takes to replenish sperm. Between two to five days of abstinence is optimal. Abstinence of more than five days is likely to cause an accumulation of aging and dead sperm in the ejaculate. Volume and sperm count can vary with each ejaculate.

It takes the body about ~72 days to grow sperm cells. Sperm count can be affected by length of abstinence, nutrition, stress, amount of sleep, drug and alcohol use, and illness. For best counts, it is optimal to avoid anything that will cause the testicles to overheat—like hot tubs, very hot showers, long or daily bike rides—in the 10 weeks before providing a sample. Activities such as tucking or wearing extremely tight undergarments can cause overheating in the testicles which can lower sperm count and quality.

How does Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy and other gender affirming treatments affect sperm count?

Research has shown that Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy (GAHT) use often decreases sperm count. If possible, we recommend storing your sperm before you begin gender affirming treatments like GAHT. If you have already started GAHT, it can take six months to a year, or longer, for sperm counts to return. We recommend having a semen analysis before opening an account if you are using, or have temporarily suspended, GAHTwhile storing your sperm.

Should I wash my sample(s)?

You must decide which type of vials you need for each collection appointment at the time of scheduling.

It’s TSBC’s policy to freeze semen samples unwashed unless the client/recipient specifically requests otherwise. If you do not know how the vials will be used in the future, we recommend storing unwashed as it preserves the greatest amount of sperm. We recommend that you speak with your medical professional for help making this decision as it will depend on sperm count, type of procedure, and whether you are planning for one or multiple children.

Unwashed (also called raw) samples are intended for vaginal inseminations and IVF. Washed samples are required for intrauterine insemination (IUI). Seminal fluid contains debris that will cause painful cramping if introduced into the uterus, so the seminal fluid is “washed” out leaving only sperm. All IUI-ready samples are .5cc in volume as this is the maximum volume the uterus can accommodate without cramping and expelling the sperm. Washed vials can also be used for vaginal insemination and IVF. Washing sperm samples is an additional fee.

If you have unwashed vials and decide to have an IUI, your medical professional will need to thaw and wash the sample for you immediately prior to the insemination. Once thawed a sample cannot be refrozen. Since the process of washing kills motile sperm and sperm are more fragile after the initial freeze, we recommend having the samples washed before freezing whenever possible.

How many visits should a donor make to the sperm bank?

The more visits you are able to make, the more samples will be available for insemination attempts, which can increase the chances of conception. After we determine the volume and post-thaw sperm count of your first semen sample, we’ll be able to better discuss how many visits you might want to make.

An average semen sample yields between two and four cc in volume. This would create two to four vials for freezing depending on the sperm count and how the samples are processed. A post-thaw sperm count of 20+ million motile sperm per cc is optimal to increase the chances of conception. However, there are many variables and no real average. Most recipients will inseminate with one vial per ovulation cycle but some will use two. One vial typically equals one attempt at pregnancy.

After each collection appointment the lab determines the volume of the sample and can see how many vials the sample produced. There is no way to predict exactly how many inseminations/vials will be needed to achieve pregnancy. Our research shows on average it takes between 4 and 8 cycle attempts when the vials have at least 20 mil motile sperm per cc–however, this varies depending on the age of the recipient (or egg provider if different). There are many variables and we are available to discuss them with you.

Can I provide samples at home?

As soon as you ejaculate, the sperm in your sample begins to deteriorate. We have you provide your semen samples on our premises so our lab can begin the cryopreservation process as soon as possible. If you are unable to visit our offices for medical reasons such as being hospitalized, we can accept a semen sample that has been provided offsite, but we will ask you to sign a waiver stating that you assume all the risks associated with the reduced sample quality. Please call us for more information.

How long can sperm be frozen?

As long as freezing conditions remain consistent, sperm can survive indefinitely. Those sperm that die in the storage process do so within the first 48 hours of freezing. Frozen semen can be stored for as long as 50 years without additional sperm deterioration beyond that caused by the original freezing process.

Am I guaranteed to conceive from the stored semen?

Unfortunately, no. Conception depends on a variety of factors such as sperm survival, the sperm count of each sample, timing of insemination, type of procedure, and the fertility of the person inseminating.

When are vials available for retrieval?

This depends on the type of account selected, as there are different requirements for each type of account.  Typical time frames are:

  • 30 days for a Client Depositor account.

Semen samples are releasable after TSBC receives the results of their STI testing and the results have been signed off by our Medical Director.

  • 7-9 months for a Directed Donor account.

Semen samples are releasable after TSBC receives the results of their six-month exit STI testing and the results have been signed off by our Medical Director. This exit STI testing must be done at least six months after the last semen sample is provided. Therefore, we recommend grouping storage visits within the shortest time period possible so we can release all samples using the same STI test results. If storage visits extend over a period longer than three months, the directed donor must repeat all the initial testing and screening forms. This is another reason to consider scheduling all appointments within weeks of each other.

  • 30 days for a Known Donor account.

Samples are releasable once the initial STI testing is complete and the results have been signed off by our Medical Director.  If the donor returns and stores additional samples, they will need to repeat the screening STI testing if more than 7 days have passed since the last storage visit.

Helpful hint

See Personal Storage and Termination Process for more information on retrieving vials.