For centuries, guys have gone around cockily assuming there’s no end to their reproductive timeline. And why not with role models like Ronnie Wood, a 69-year-old father to new twins, and Mick Jagger, about to be a dad again at 72? But infertility is increasingly an equal opportunity sh*tshow. New research proves that there is, in fact, a male biological clock. Blame modern environmental factors — air pollution, your sauna obsession, weed... All of which has given rise to a trend in elective sperm freezing. “Name a 100-year-old medical technique that’s the purest form of preventative medicine, yet vastly underutilized,” demands Beverly Hills urologist Paul Turek, M.D. So, should you put a bit of that sperm in the deep freeze? Probably!
No way, I’m as virile as a 19-year-old.
Well now’s as good a time as ever, then. Testosterone begins a progressive decline starting in your 30s, which can reduce sperm count. And according to Turek, sperm quality matters just as much as quantity. Research has suggested that older sperm can increase the likelihood of genetic disorders that can cause autism, bipolar disorder, and birth defects. Kids with older dads, meanwhile, tend to have lower IQ scores overall.
Isn’t there a test for this?
While doctors can test sperm count and sperm mobility to determine general levels of fertility, they can’t yet test sperm for genetic disorders or other risks. Even so, it’s worth having your sperm analyzed, Turek says. “Many people, myself included, believe that fertility is a marker for overall health,” he explains. “If you’re young and you’ve got a low sperm count, there could be other issues going on.”
So when should I freeze?
Now. Yesterday. “At 26, men stop growing and start aging,” says Turek. And after 40, the integrity and performance of sperm declines a percentage point each year. The ideal time to get something in the bank, he says, is between the ages of 25 and 30, when sperm is at its peak.
Is this more Zika hype?
Turek says he hasn’t had any requests for Zika-related sperm freezing, but it’s not a totally unfounded fear. Zika is transmitted sexually, and if a woman contracts it during pregnancy, it can cause several birth defects. That’s why a number of Olympic athletes, including British long jumper Greg Rutherford and American volleyball coach John Speraw opted to freeze their sperm before heading to Rio, where Zika is rampant, this past summer. Currently, the CDC says it doesn’t think Zika infection in a woman who is not pregnant will pose a risk for future pregnancies once the virus has cleared from her blood, but research is ongoing.
What if I don’t even want kids?
You’re young, Turek says. What do you know? Many of Turek’s clients are men who come in seeking vasectomy reversals. He also sees an increasing number of guys who decide later in life to have kids by themselves. “Many men seeking reversals come in off a horrible marriage and want a second chance to raise kids the way they’ve always wanted,” he says. “Bank your sperm and it’s never too late.”
Does it hurt?
If you produce your specimen with the help of photos of the ex you never got over, then sure. It might hurt a little. Otherwise, you can be as gentle as you want to be. First step: Choose a bank near you—also known as a cryogenic center or “cryobank.” Abstain from ejaculating for 48 hours, but no more than four days, before an appointment. (After four days, and you’re more likely to have some dead sperm cells in the mix.) At the first appointment, the center will screen you for STDs and offer an analysis of your semen. Most will recommend you bank six samples, each requiring an additional appointment. This is because not all samples will be viable, despite what your dad might have told you about all the strong swimmers in your gene pool, and because the various insemination technologies typically require multiple attempts. On average, expect to spend around $1,000 for the initial appointment, $150-$200 for any follow ups, and a few hundred bucks per year for storage. No one ever said having kids is cheap.