Egg and Ovarian Tissue Freezing have the potential to be helpful for women with cancer, as chemotherapy and radiation treatment can often have a harmful effect on fertility, rendering many of these women menopausal following completion of their treatment.
Women who are at risk of early menopause or who have a genetic disorder which could limit fertility or women who wish to have children at a later date, can also have eggs or ovarian tissue collected and stored.
Some patients participating on an IVF program have moral or ethical beliefs against freezing supernumerary embryos and may prefer to store unfertilised eggs instead. The ability to cryopreserve oocytes prior to fertilisation means that if they are surplus to requirements, then in the future their disposal would not raise some of the moral or ethical dilemmas that the disposal of embryos may.
While embryo and sperm freezing are well-recognised infertility treatments, with many thousands of babies born as result, egg freezing is a relatively new option for women who want to preserve their fertility. However, our research into this area is very promising.
For women who undergo this procedure, eggs are collected during an IVF cycle and are frozen, sometimes for many years. When the woman is ready to use her eggs, they are thawed and fertilised with sperm. A healthy fertilised egg will develop into an embryo, which may then be transferred to the woman’s uterus, with a subsequent chance of pregnancy.
Depending on your circumstances, you may have enough time before starting your chemotherapy or radiotherapy to have more than one cycle of hormone stimulation and egg retrieval. This ensures that you have a reasonable number of eggs to freeze and therefore an increased chance of a future pregnancy.
Ovarian Tissue Freezing
This involves removing a small piece of ovarian tissue from one ovary, cutting it into tiny slices and then freezing. Later, when you are ready to conceive, the ovarian tissue slices are grafted back into your pelvis. Around nine months later, the grafted ovarian tissue can start to produce reproductive hormones and follicular development.
Pregnancy may be achieved either with ovarian stimulation and IVF, or perhaps even naturally.
Further research and experimental work needs to be completed before this will be routine clinical treatment; at present we still consider this to be experimental.
Fertility Preservation for Social Reasons
Age-related infertility in women is one of the most common issues presented to fertility specialists each day when trying to help patients become pregnant.
At International Fertility Centre, we recognise that for some women childbearing has been unavoidably delayed. Your most fertile years are your 20s and early 30s, when the ovaries still contain a large number of healthy eggs. For the 10 to 15 years before menopause, even if you have regular monthly periods, the ovarian function deteriorates. This is especially so for women in their 40s.
So if you want to have a child in the future, but have not had the opportunity during your most fertile years, then freezing your eggs for use in the future – when you have met the right partner, or are ready to start your family – may be an option for you.
If you are thinking about fertility preservation, please arrange an appointment with International Fertility Centre.