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How Fertility Preservation Works

A blog by Neway Fertility, November 11, 2014

The world of fertility treatments is expanding each day with fertility preservation procedures becoming more and more popular. This allows women to have biological children in the future, even if they are not at their most fertile age. Fertility Preservation is a way for men and women to freeze their sperm, eggs or embryos for future use. Patients facing chemotherapy and radiation for cancer or those with ovarian cysts, lupus or a family history of early menopause may also benefit from fertility preservation. Eggs, sperm, and resulting embryos may all be frozen and stored for prolonged periods until future use in IVF cycles. They are frozen using liquid nitrogen and stored in special facilities. Once the patient is ready to start a family of their own, the preserved samples are thawed and prepared for use in IVF cycles.

The egg is the largest cell in the human body and contains a large amount of water. For this reason, the technology to freeze eggs has taken some time to develop. When the egg is frozen, the ice crystals that form can destroy the integrity of the cell. In recent years, a new flash-freezing process known as Vitrification has been developed. This technique has proven to be superior to earlier methods used and, currently, pregnancy rates from cryopreserved oocytes are very good. Cryopreservation of sperm, eggs, and embryos is a low-risk producer.

In the fall of 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) released an updated report about oocyte cryopreservation. According to the chair of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Practice Committee, “Oocyte Cryopreservation is an exciting and improving technology, and should no longer be considered experimental. Pregnancy rates and health outcomes of the resulting children are now comparable to those of IVF with fresh eggs.”

Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients

Cancer is a shocking diagnosis for anybody. For many women with Cancer, their dreams change drastically and their first thoughts are how can I survive this. Most can’t see beyond the diagnosis to think about what the future holds for them. For women who were planning to have a family or have just started their family, they aren’t thinking about how devastating their cancer is to their chances to conceive a baby in the future. Unfortunately once diagnosed, Oncologists' main priority is to treat the cancer and often times neglect to speak with the patient about fertility preservation.

Women and men need to know that a delay in treatment for a few weeks can give a couple, young female or male a chance at a family that might have otherwise been lost. Too often patients are devastated by the cancer diagnosis and they cannot think clearly about their fertility. They pursue treatment without researching options. Fertility Preservation is the answer.

Fertility Preservation is a way for men and women to freeze their sperm, eggs or embryos for future use. Patients facing chemotherapy and radiation for cancer or those with ovarian cysts, lupus or a family history of early menopause may also benefit from fertility preservation. Eggs, sperm, embryos may all be frozen and stored for prolonged periods until future use in IVF cycles. They are frozen using liquid nitrogen and stored in special facilities. Once the patient is ready to start a family of their own, they are thawed and prepared for use in IVF cycles.

To collect eggs, ovaries are stimulated to produce eggs using fertility drugs like Clomid or other hormones, just as in conventional IVF treatment. The eggs are gathered, but instead of being fertilized, they are frozen and stored. This would be considered “Egg Freezing,” and with new technologies like Vitrification, Egg freezing has recently been approved to be a mainstream procedure. Embryo freezing is the cryopreservation of an embryo for future use. In this case, Conventional IVF techniques are then used to collect the woman’s eggs and fertilize them in the lab with the male partner’s or donor’s sperm. The embryos are cultured for a few days, then frozen and stored until patients are ready to thaw and implant. It is important to remember that you cannot truly “freeze time,” so it is better to freeze your eggs as early in your adulthood as possible.

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