Fertility preservation is the process of saving or protecting eggs, sperm, or reproductive tissue so that the patient can have children in the future. Fertility preservation, whether it is the result of personal choices or certain health conditions, allows for individuals to plan for a family in the future.
Reasons that people opt for fertility preservation include:
The egg retrieval process is quite lengthy, requiring two to four weeks to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs hormonally. Not all eggs are used in an IVF procedure. Many people are reluctant to discard any of the fresh eggs and wish to preserve them for later use. Cryopreservation provides a solution.
With egg and sperm banking, couples also have an option to limit the number of embryos they request, which sometimes causes emotional concerns. It may help to know additional eggs can be frozen for use at a later time in case the first IVF attempt fails.
First, your fertility specialist conducts an assessment of your ovarian reserve to estimate the potential number of eggs that could be collected. This includes blood work and ultrasounds. Ovarian stimulation is carried out in the same manner that is used with IVF, which includes the use of injectable hormonal medications.
Once the eggs have matured adequately within your ovaries, they are removed by your fertility specialist. The eggs are then immediately frozen. When the patient is ready to attempt pregnancy, the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
In most cases, whether an egg, sperm, or an embryo, the tissue sample is mixed with a special solution that protects the cells from damage caused by extremely low storage temperatures. The tissue is then placed in a special container that’s properly labeled and subsequently frozen.
The material is stored in liquid nitrogen in securely monitored storage tanks which maintain a temperature of -320° F. Under these conditions, all metabolic activity in the cells stops, and they undergo a dormant state which allows for temporary storage.
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