It turns out males have biological clocks too. Sure, silver-haired gentlemen can still impregnate people – the actor Tony Randall did it when he was 75. But science is now learning that the quality of sperm can deteriorate as a man gets older, so an increasing number of men are freezing their sperm
for future use.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, there are now several companies providing sperm-freezing service, which they hope will become a routine procedure. For example, a company called Legacy allows men to start the process from home: providing a sample and then learning how healthy their sperm is today, and whether they should consider freezing it for the future.
Legacy was founded five years ago by Khaled Kteily, a former healthcare consultant at Oliver Wyman in Toronto, and a Harvard graduate. The idea came to him when he was riding in a car and spilled hot tea on his lap, scalding his genitals and leaving him afraid he would be rendered infertile. He went to a sperm bank, provided a sample for testing, found out he was fine, and then was asked if he wanted to pay up to $500 a year to store it in a deep freezer. He felt the price was too high, the service was impersonal, and he could do better. So he started Legacy. “This should be a no-brainer for every man,” Kteily told the Wall Street Journal. “I believe that in the future this will be something parents will buy for their kids as a not-so-subtle gift.”
His clients include young single men who aren’t yet ready for a committed relationship, or are worried about the possibility of their fertility being compromised by illness or personal injury. Transgender people also use the service, to preserve their fertility before beginning hormone therapy. And Legacy recently entered into an agreement to provide sperm testing and storage to the U.S. military, starting with the Navy SEALs.
Employers like Google, Facebook and Apple already offer egg-freezing to female employees as a healthcare benefit, and Legacy hopes they will start paying for men to freeze their sperm too. Their services are covered by some health insurers in New York and California, and they plan to expend into Illinois and Texas next.
Recent research indicates that men’s fertility, or lack thereof, plays a bigger role in reproduction than previously thought. A 2017 study published in “Human Reproductive Update” concluded that between 1973 and 2011, sperm counts in men in western countries fell 52%. This precipitous decline raises fears that if men’s fertility continues to fall, sperm preservation will be the only option for men who don’t have children during their prime years, i.e., before age 35. Other research has suggested that the older the man, the more chance their offspring will suffer from psychiatric and developmental disorders such as schizophrenia, intellectual disabilities, and autism.
Saad Alam, a 39-year-old founder of a biotech company, told the Wall Street Journal that he recently decided to freeze his sperm after discovering he had the testosterone levels of an 80-year-old man, which was not welcome news for him or his girlfriend. Now, he has frozen sperm samples with five different companies – including Legacy – to ensure the safety of his genetic legacy. He believes his generation could live to 110 or 120, which he says fundamentally changes how you think about the arc of your life, and when to have children. “My girlfriend keeps asking me when we’re going to have kids, but I work crazy hours and I love building companies. I’m not necessarily ready for kids right now. So this is like my insurance policy.”
For advice on family law issues and fertility law issues, contact Shirley Levitan at: sh*****@fa*******************.ca