Originally developed to help young cancer patients who wanted preserve the possibility of having biological children after treatment, fertility preservation is the process of saving eggs or sperm for potential future use. In addition to cancer patients, it is chiefly used by women with endometriosis, fibroids, genetic issues affecting fertility or autoimmune diseases as well as those who delay having children for personal reasons.
With advances in technology and medicine, more and more fertility preservation options are available today, including:
- Egg or sperm cryopreservation: Unfertilized eggs can be frozen and stored for future use, and the same goes for semen. A newer method of preserving eggs, vitrification, involves a rapid freezing done in the absence of ice, and is safer for the preserved eggs/sperm.
- Embryo freezing: The most successful option for preserving fertility, eggs are removed from a woman’s ovaries and are then fertilized with sperm from a partner or donor via in vitro fertilization. The embryos can then be frozen and stored.
- Ovarian tissue freezing. The best option for cancer patients who haven’t reached puberty or women who need to begin treatment before eggs can be collected, this involves freezing of ovarian tissue (and occasionally the entire ovary), which is replanted later. Transplanted tissue can be active for up to seven years.
- Gonadal shielding: Used for women and men undergoing radiation treatment, particularly in the pelvic region, gonadal shielding helps to protect the ovaries or testicles with a shield or can involve aiming radiation at a very small targeted area.
“Whether you are choosing to wait to start a family or experiencing a health issue that impacts fertility, there are options for extending this window,” said Dr. David Clay. “Important issues to consider include age, health and long-term interest in family planning, all topics we are happy to cover with you.”