Fertility preservation is a fairly new concept in reproductive medicine. The idea of preserving a patient’s current fertility status for future use is rapidly gaining exposure in the media, resulting in growing public interest in its utilization. Initially developed primarily for young patients of cancer and other diseases undergoing life-saving treatments that can cause irrevocable damage to reproductive function (medical fertility preservation), fertility preservation is a concept of “safeguarding” current reproductive abilities into the future by storing reproductive cells or tissues “out of harm’s way.”
Cancer and fertility preservation
Every day, a young woman receives a cancer diagnosis. Unlike men, who often resume sperm production within months after cancer treatment ends, a woman’s eggs are often permanently damaged after cancer treatment.
Freezing eggs and embryos
For those with cancer, fertility preservation options allow you to freeze your eggs (or embryos) prior to starting cancer treatment. While cancer treatment leaves many women infertile, some do go on to have children after treatment ends. If your cancer treatment might leave you infertile, ask your doctor about fertility preservation. This process may offer you a chance to have biological children after cancer treatment ends.
Protecting your future
Fertility drops significantly by the time a woman reaches 40. So what is a young woman to do when she knows she is not ready to have children yet? Egg freezing (or embryo freezing) fertility preservation offers a young woman the ability to safely postpone pregnancy until she is ready.
Whatever the reason for choosing female fertility preservation, here is how the process works:
- Your eggs can be retrieved, frozen rapidly with vitrification, and later thawed and fertilized during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle.
- If you are freezing embryos, your eggs are retrieved, fertilized with sperm (from your partner or donor sperm) to create healthy embryos, and then frozen.
- When you are ready to start a family, your doctor will thaw the embryos and implant one or more in your uterus as part of the IVF process.
Fertility preservation for men
Fertility preservation for men is a new field of medicine that allows men to freeze their sperm and retain their fertility so they can still have children after cancer treatment. This process usually goes pretty smoothly.