What is Fertility preservation ?
Fertility preservation is the technique of conserving or storing one’s eggs, sperm, embryos or reproductive tissues so that the person can use them in the future so as to have an offspring.
The idea of preserving a patient’s current fertility status for future use is rapidly gaining attention. Fertility preservation was initially developed to safeguard the reproductive function primarily of young patients diagnosed with cancer and other diseases undergoing radiation, chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments that can cause irreversible damage to their reproductive function.
In recent years, social egg freezing has rapidly gained popularity as the number of women delaying childbirth is increasing and hence are trying to preserve their fertility of younger years into the future by freezing their eggs when they are young but not ready to start a family.
Medically indicated and social fertility preservation, however, constitute distinctively different ethical and practical concepts of fertility preservation, with their own distinct risk-benefit considerations.
Various types of fertility preservation are:
- Embryo freezing
- Egg freezing
- Ovarian tissue freezing
- Sperm freezing
Medically Indicated Fertility Preservation
Here, patients face medical conditions or planning to undergo life-saving medical treatments like Chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which are toxic and likely to affect the gonadal function (of ovaries in women and of testes in men). Fertility preservation helps a couple to have their own biological children once they are cured of the disease.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may cause life-long sterility with no way to have biological children which could be devastating for couples who desire to have children later. Preserving ones eggs or sperm could be of great help for such couples even though it does not guarantee success in all cases.
Different methods of fertility preservation may be appropriate, depending on medical conditions and/or gonado-toxic treatments needed, as well as the patient’s personal circumstances. In some cases of gynaecological cancers, use of specific surgical and medical treatment techniques can be used to avoid damage to vital reproductive organs.
Social Fertility Preservation
In many developed countries, women are increasingly delaying childbearing as they pursue higher education and career goals. With growing public awareness of female fertility declining with advancing age, especially after age 35, social fertility preservation has become an increasingly popular solution. By freezing eggs or freezing embryos when still young, women assure access to their youthful reproductive potential later in life, when they are ready to start a family.
Considerations surrounding social fertility preservation differ from those of medical fertility preservation. Here, the certainty of sterility later in life does not exist. Therefore, the still limited amount of published data about the procedure and its outcomes, as well as the resulting uncertainties in risk-benefit analysis, mandate that social fertility preservation via egg freezing be considered still experimental. Embryo freezing, however, has for many years been considered an “established” procedure.
FEMALE FERTILITY PRESERVATION
The quantity & quality of the egg deteriorates with the advancing age of women making it more difficult to conceive at an advanced age. By freezing eggs, one can preserve the age of the eggs optimizing the chances of having a baby later in life.
Who can opt for oocyte freezing?
Women wanting to delay childbearing, women with a family history of premature ovarian failure, or those diagnosed with severe endometriosis or diagnosed with cancer requiring chemotherapy and or radiotherapy.
What is Female Fertility Preservation or Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing or Oocyte Vitrification is the process of extracting, freezing and storing a woman’s eggs in order for her to be able to delay her ability to conceive. It is called as female fertility preservation because it allows the woman to preserve her fertility for when she is ready to start a family. The frozen eggs can be stored for a number of years and can be made available to the woman as and when desired. The Frozen eggs are thawed and subjected to IVF/ICSI when desired. Once fertilized, the eggs can be transferred to the uterus for further development.
If you are considering freezing your eggs it is important that you make an informed choice after discussing efficacy, safety, and the costs.
MALE FERTILITY PRESERVATION
Sperm freezing is a process of extracting, freezing and storing of the man’s spermatozoa. The freezing and storing of sperm is done through a process of cryopreservation. There could be several reasons due to which men may choose to have their fertility preserved. We will get into this in more detail further on. An important point to note is that sperm that have been cryopreserved can be a viable option for insemination indefinitely.
What is Male Fertility Preservation or Sperm Freezing?
Sperm Freezing is also referred to as Sperm Banking or Cryopreservation. It involves collecting, analyzing, freezing and storing of sperm for later use. Frozen sperm are stored in a sperm bank, hence the term sperm banking. The process of freezing sperm was first introduced in the 1950’s and there have been several additional advancements made to the process in the years that followed.
Advantages of Sperm Freezing or Male Fertility Preservation
There could be several factors like lifestyle, hereditary issues and health conditions that could lead to a deterioration of the quality of the sperm. Having your sperm frozen provides men with a safeguard to having children if they would like to do so in the future. Even as you grow older the quality of sperm tends to deteriorate. Sperm freezing at a younger age provides you with an opportunity to use the frozen sperm to procreate at a later date when you are ready to have a child.
Who is Sperm Freezing Suitable For?
- Young men that are not in a position to have a child but wish to do so at a future date should opt for sperm freezing process
- If you suffer from low quality or low quantity sperm you should consider freezing your sperm in order to be able to use them for IVF procedures at a later date
- Cancer treatments can cause harm to male fertility. Before undergoing treatment for cancer it is always a good idea to deposit some sperm in the sperm bank in case you would like to father children at some later stage of life
- If you plan to have a vasectomy but would like to have the option to have children in the future it would make sense to have some frozen sperm handy when needed
- If your profession involves you being exposed to radiation, heat or other chemical effluents that could negatively impact your sperm count or quality it would make sense to undergo the sperm freezing process to ensure that you have a backup
- If you suffer from ejaculatory dysfunction which could cause a challenge in conceiving, sperm freezing could be the right solution for your problems
- Sperm freezing is also suitable for those looking to help childless couples by donating sperm to sperm banks
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