There are all kinds of reasons why men and women may choose to preserve their fertility. Each is as unique as we are individual. And each brings with it its own challenges and considerations.
For some people it may be the thought that their fertility could decline before they’re ready to have kids. For others the decision may be related to advancing age, or a gender-affirming procedure, or in the context of cancer treatment. There are plenty of other reasons besides.
Whatever the reason, sperm, eggs, embryos, and ovarian tissue can all be frozen for people who face the prospect of decreased fertility.
Picking the right time to try having a baby is an incredibly personal decision. Whether you’re single, married, or in a LGBTTQI+ relationship, if you're not in a position to try for a baby now, egg freezing may be an option to help preserve your fertility.
The typical process for women is actually very similar to the first part of IVF. The ovaries are stimulated with hormonal medications to produce as many eggs as possible. Those eggs are then retrieved from the ovaries and frozen by a method called vitrification. When the patient wants to use the eggs, they will be thawed and the second half of an IVF cycle will resume – adding sperm to the eggs, embryo transfer, and freezing any spare embryos.
Ovarian tissue freezing is also an option for patients facing cancer treatments. This technique involves removing one or both ovaries surgically and freezing thin slices of ovarian tissue. The slices are transplanted back to the patient once treatment has finished.
Sperm freezing is straightforward, and many people will have enough sperm in one ejaculate for several IVF cycles. If there are enough good quality sperm after thawing then the first approach may be to try IUI (the most common method of Artificial Insemination), keeping some sperm in reserve for IVF later if IUI is not successful. If IUI will be considered as an option, it’s typically best to freeze three or more semen samples.
Deciding when to start building a family is a deeply personal choice. Fertility preservation helps give you the option to follow your own timeline, knowing that the choice will always be there to make – whenever you’re ready.