Using Sperm Preserved Before Radiation Therapy

Q.My husband is 41, and I’m 28. He is sterile from radiation therapy 10 years ago. His doctor at that time suggested he donate sperm before the treatment. He did so, and the sperm are still frozen in a medical lab. What are the chances of us being able to conceive, assuming all is normal with me and I am fertile? Also, what would be the process of fertilization? Would drugs be involved? He gave only one donation (ejaculation) for freezing. How many children could we have? Would I have to have them in a single pregnancy?

A.Sperm frozen in these circumstances often do not have the same fertilizing capability as a similar number of sperm from a man without cancer. So, I strongly advise that you consider in vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm injection (ICSI) to increase your chances of success.

During the IVF procedure you would take injections of the hormone FSH to stimulate the growth of multiple eggs. After the eggs are surgically retrieved, the semen would be thawed and a single sperm injected into each egg. Usually only two or three of any resulting embryos would be transferred into the uterus.

The remainder would be cryopreserved. With luck, your first treatment cycle will be successful and you can thaw the cryopreserved embryos to try for your second pregnancy.

Normally, the semen specimen is divided into a number of tubes before it is frozen, meaning you can undergo multiple attempts if necessary. If only one tube of sperm was frozen, the embryologist should be asked if the sperm can be refrozen for a second attempt in case you do not have cryopreserved embryos remaining after the first attempt.

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