While male fertility preservation has been a well-established method, it was only recently that female fertility preservation became efficient enough to be considered as a realistic option for women who wanted to postpone motherhood.
A new method of oocyte (egg) cryopreservation was introduced in the last decade, called “vitrification” that enabled us to achieve higher success rates. The problem was that human oocytes are the largest cells in a woman’s organism, containing a lot of water which made them vulnerable to ice crystal formation during the cryopreservation process. Vitrification is a method of fast freezing of the oocytes in cryoprotectants that prevents the ice crystal formation.
This method is no longer considered experimental as stated by most organizations, including ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) and has already resulted in the birth of thousands of babies.
Which women should consider fertility preservation?
Social reasons: women who are not able to conceive at the optimal age because of career obligations, social reasons or by choice. Especially in westernized countries where women are pursuing higher education and demanding careers, it is not uncommon for a woman to try to conceive after the age of 37 or in her 40’s when there is a significant decline in the chances of achieving a pregnancy. Oocyte cryopreservation at an earlier age could give a realistic chance to become a mother at a later stage in your life.
Cancer patients: patients who are going to have gonadotoxic therapies for cancer, like chemotherapy or radiation should consider preserving their fertility for the future. The number of women who are cancer survivors is increasing every year and these women want to create or extend their family. It is of the uttermost importance to inform these patients about the possibility of fertility preservation when this is possible.
Women with family history of premature ovarian failure: in these women oocyte cryopreservation gives a unique opportunity to pause the deleterious effect of time to their ovarian reserve and give them a chance to have a child when it is appropriate for them.
Ethical or religious reasons: while embryo cryopreservation is still the best choice for future pregnancy, some women that undergo IVF prefer not have a surplus of embryos that are going to be freezed and proceed to cryopreservation of the surplus oocytes.
Is fertility preservation for you?
When should I cryopreserve my oocytes?
The earlier the better. Usually cryopreservation of the oocytes before the age of 35 will give a greater number and better quality of oocytes , thus increasing the chances of achieving our goal in the future
What is the procedure of oocyte cryopreservation?
Women that want to cryopreserve their oocytes undergo the same procedures of ovarian stimulation and oocyte retrieval as in the case of IVF. The average duration is 12-14 days of stimulation with injectable medications and the oocytes are aspirated with a needle under sedation.
Does it matter how long I preserve my oocytes?
On average more than 70% of oocytes survive the freezing and thawing procedure. How long they are cryopreserved does not have an effect on the quality of the oocytes.
Is it safe?
More than 5000 babies have been born from frozen oocytes. Most of the studies have not shown any increased rate of birth defects or chromosomal problems.
Also there is no increase in pregnancy complications. Thus all the data that we have, show that it is a safe method. Having data from over 300.000 babies born from frozen embryos that reveal no harm is also very reassuring. Oocyte cryopreservation is growing in popularity and soon we will have even larger number of babies delivered that will make the results more robust.
What is the cost?
The cost is more or less the same as in an IVF cycle. You will need the same medications and undergo the same procedure up until the oocyte retrieval.
After the 1st year of storage of the oocytes there is an annual fee of 200 euros.