Fertility preservation is a term used to describe specific options for treatment available to those individuals and couples who want the opportunity to have a baby at a later date. Fertility preservation is extremely useful for those who are faced with the possibility of losing their ability to procreate. The preservation of sperm, eggs and embryos offers an opportunity to those individuals who, just a few decades ago, would never have had a hope of having their own child.
Reasons for Fertility Preservation
The most obvious reason for preserving your fertility is that it is threatened by treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy can alter both eggs and sperm and surgery performed to treat cancer is apt to interfere with your reproductive organs. Different types of therapies other than chemotherapy (radiation, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplant) may complicate your fertility or even cause infertility, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to become pregnant.
Often, when dealing with a cancer diagnosis, patients are preoccupied with battling the disease and not necessarily thinking about future fertility. It’s crucial, however, in the interest of your fertility and your future plans, to investigate your options for fertility preservation. If you’re facing treatment for cancer, or any other aggressive treatment discuss the impact on your fertility, as well as fertility preservation options, with your physician.
Some other reasons to consider fertility preservation besides cancer. Perhaps you are prone to a genetic condition that compromises your fertility, or you have an autoimmune disorder. Maybe your biological clock is ticking and you aren’t yet in a position to have a child, but you know that you do want a family of your own one day.
Options for Fertility Preservation
Whatever your reason for considering preservation of your fertility there are a few different options available. Of course, each situation is unique and what night be the right path for one person, or couple, may not be right for another. You will discuss your options with your physician and plan the course that’s right for you. And fertility preservation in any capacity has been proven safe and successful.
Cryopreservation of your embryos is a process that allows you to preserve your embryos for later use. For those who aren’t yet ready or able (due to medical treatment) to become pregnant embryo freezing offers the best hope for the future.
The process involves stimulation of the ovaries to produce viable eggs, egg retrieval, fertilization in a lab, then cryopreservation of viable embryos. The thawing process has proven to be highly successful and women who use previously frozen embryos have a high rate of success for giving birth to healthy babies.
Ovarian Tissue Freezing
There are some instances when a woman undergoes treatment which will directly impact her ovaries. There is a relatively new treatment for fertility preservation which involves freezing or cryopreservation of the ovarian tissue. In this process the ovary is removed and the tissue that contains the eggs is cut and frozen. Upon completion of treatment and restoration of hormone function the tissue is transplanted into the pelvis or a location that is safe and convenient.
Egg freezing is an alternative to cryopreservation of ovarian tissue. Egg freezing involves harvesting of the eggs which are cryogenically preserved for future use. If it becomes necessary to do so you may decide to use donor eggs or even a donor embryo. For those women without a uterus, the use of a gestational surrogate is a sound option.
Freezing the Sperm
For those men who are going to undergo testicular surgery or treatment for cancer involving chemotherapy or radiation it’s a good idea to freeze the sperm. Cancer treatment, along with testicular surgery can impair sperm production or cause it to stop altogether. It is recommended that you seek out fertility preservation before you undergo chemotherapy or radiation. Be sure to discuss the risks to your future fertility with your physician prior to treatment.
Sperm is most commonly obtained via ejaculate, however if necessary the sperm to be frozen can be obtained by a testicular biopsy. Ejaculation offers a higher concentration of sperm. The success rates for pregnancy using frozen sperm are very high and when you decide to pursue pregnancy you can do so by IVF or IUI, depending on the circumstances.
Hope for Your Future Dreams
Fertility preservation offers hope to millions of people who are at risk for losing their ability to conceive a child. Thanks to the ever-advancing reproductive technology, there are several options for preservation of fertility. Success using frozen embryos, eggs, sperm and even the experimental use of frozen ovarian tissue proves that it is possible to realize your dream of having a child even when your fertility is threatened.