Sperm Freezing Debate Warms Up

Sperm Freezing

In a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr Kevin Smith, a bioethicist from Abertay University in Dundee, has expressed that children conceived by older fathers were more likely to suffer from genetic diseases, and because of this, early sperm freezing could decrease the chances of complications in pregnancy.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average age of fatherhood in England and Wales has increased from 31 in the early 1990s to nearly 33 in 2013. Smith claims that as sperm becomes more prone to mutations with age, thus increasing the risk of genetic disorders, state-funded universal sperm-banking would “offer a straightforward solution”.

Early Sperm Freezing can help individuals defer parenthood

“In principle, it would be straightforward for young men (aged perhaps 18) to elect to have their sperm stored until starting a family at an older age, thus avoiding a build-up of new mutations,” he reported. Dr Smith said the technology for storing sperm was well established. “This approach may appear radical or intuitively unwelcome to some, in that it would entail a wholescale move away from natural conception.” As with egg freezing, the practice would allow individuals to opt for deferred parenthood, with the reassurance of optimum fertile sperm.

Sperm freezing process

Donated sperm has to be stored for six months before it can be used in treatment, in order to screen the donor for infections. Sperm cells have been frozen, thawed and successfully used in treatment for more than 40 years, although not all sperm survive the freezing process, and not all fertility experts are in agreement with Dr Smith’s views. Allan Pacey, a Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: “This is one of the most ridiculous suggestions I have heard in a long time.”

He adds that sperm from the majority of men doesn’t freeze very well, and men saving their sperm for a later occasion, “would essentially be asking their wives to undergo one or more IVF procedures in order to start a family.”

Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, has also suggested that extra measures for procreation should not be taken out of the bedroom and into the test tube unless there are defined fertility problems. Instead, he believes there should be a greater focus in the UK on supporting young couples to establish their careers and relationships before the natural decline in both female and male fertility.

About Tone Jarvis-Mack 214 Articles
Publisher and writer for Fertility Road magazine I have spent the last 4 years writing about my experiences surrounding fertility.

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