18 Jan Fertility Preservation Month – Planned Oocyte Cryopreservation
Fertility preservation offers the opportunity for future reproduction. Fertility cryopreservation is the freezing and storing of mature eggs (oocytes), fertilized eggs (embryos), or sperm for later use in fertility treatments to achieve pregnancy.
The utilization of oocyte cryopreservation (OC) has become popular with reproductive-aged patients who desire to maintain fertility for future family building. It is available to patients to circumvent age-related infertility and other diagnoses associated with early loss of ovarian reserve.
Fertility preservation is a branch of reproductive medicine that began over 20 years ago and has now grown into a well-established fertility service. FSMG offers the entire spectrum of treatments available for fertility preservation and FSMG is constantly developing new methods for treatments.
There are many reasons why an individual may want to take advantage of fertility preservation options. These include:
- Chemotherapy and radiation: Reproductive organs, especially ovaries, are extremely sensitive to treatments such as chemotherapy. In addition to killing cancer cells, these drugs and radiation may also kill egg and sperm cells. Certain chemotherapeutic drugs that damage the DNA in cancer cells can cause ovarian or testicular damage. Radiation directed toward the abdomen or pelvis can permanently or temporarily harm the ovary or testes.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, and cervix) may make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless they cryopreserve oocytes, embryos and then potentially resorting to gestational surrogacy to carry a baby to term. A man undergoing removal of a testis or prostate for cancer should freeze sperm before surgery and chemo/radiotherapy to preserve the chances to father children in the future.
- Late childbearing: As a woman’s fertility decreases with each passing year, many consider fertility preservation in the hope that they will be able to start families in their late 30s, 40s.
- Autoimmune diseases: Certain autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis can harm a woman or man’s fertility.
- Transgender individuals: Men who wish to preserve sperm before a gender-affirming surgery to transition to a woman or preserve eggs for women transitioning to men.
At FSMG, we offer several options for women and men. These include:
- Embryo Cryopreservation: With this procedure, the patient goes through a cycle of in-vitro fertilization, which starts by stimulating the ovaries to develop multiple eggs, harvest them and then combining it with sperm cells to create embryos. The embryos are treated with cryoprotectant agents to prevent damage by ice crystals during cryopreservation.
- Oocyte Cryopreservation (Egg freezing): For this procedure, patients undergo ovarian stimulation to develop multiple eggs. The extracted eggs are cryopreserved with a technique known as vitrification.
- Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation: Some patients need immediate treatment due to a pelvic cancer or a sarcoma. In these cases, the only option is to cryopreserve ovarian tissue. Using a minimally invasive technique, the physician removes the ovarian cortical tissue where eggs are located. This tissue can then be frozen until the patient needs it.
- Sperm cryopreservation: There are cases when men need to consider fertility preservation. Men may choose to provide a sperm sample for cryopreservation. Fertility doctors may take sperm directly from the testis with a testicular biopsy and cryopreserve the sperm in a process like that for eggs and embryos. The sperm can then be held long-term until the patient is ready for fatherhood.
Freezing Eggs to Preserve Fertility
Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte (egg) cryopreservation, is the freezing and storage of unfertilized eggs. Egg freezing is an option that can make it possible to become pregnant using a patient’s own eggs in the future by taking advantage of the quantity and quality of the eggs available when a woman is younger.
Egg freezing may be beneficial for those:
- Who wish to advance their careers before starting a family
- With jobs that are hazardous in a way that can harm their eggs
- Who prefer to delay parenthood for relationship reasons
- Who is part of an LGBTQ+ couple or an individual requiring donated eggs to have a child
- Who are transgender and transitioning
- Who will undergo cancer or other medical treatments that could lead to infertility
Egg freezing is used for egg donation when the fresh oocytes (eggs) are collected from the donor.