The storage of eggs, embryos, ovarian tissue and sperm for future use.
If you wish to preserve your fertility there may be a number of options available to you, including:
Men and women may wish to preserve their fertility due to:
• Social reasons such as career building, no long-term partner and financial instability lead to an individual choosing to delay parenthood until they are ready to start a family.
• Treatment being required for a medical condition that may affect future fertility, for example before some cancer treatments. When a diagnosis of cancer is given the patient often needs to start treatment quickly. Chemotherapy or radiotherapy may cause damage to sperm or eggs and cause future fertility problems. Freezing eggs, embryos, ovarian tissue or sperm prior to cancer therapies can give people real hope of preserving their chances of a family.
• Being at risk of injury or death, for example a member of the Armed Forces who is being deployed to a war zone.
Egg production is boosted using fertility drugs that stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles which contain the eggs. When the developing follicles are large enough they are carefully emptied to collect the eggs they have produced while the patient is under sedation or general anaesthetic. The eggs are then frozen in storage in liquid nitrogen called vitrification.
There is a 50% chance that those patients having IVF or ICSI will have a number of unused embryos after their first cycle. Healthy embryos may be frozen to use in future cycles, allowing pregnancy to be attempted again without going through the complete IVF process, avoiding stimulated egg growth and the accompanying injections. Approximately 70% of all frozen embryos survive the thawing process. Some couples may have all of their embryos survive in good condition, others may not have any that survive.
This innovative procedure helps newly diagnosed cancer patients to maintain their fertility after their cancer treatment. It may be a suitable for girls or some women about to undergo cancer treatment who wish to preserve their fertility when there is not enough time to undergo an egg collection before their treatment starts, or girls who are undergoing medical treatment which may affect their future fertility but who have not reached puberty yet and don’t have any mature eggs to collect from their ovaries for egg freezing.
Ovarian tissue cryopreservation involves removing and freezing healthy ovarian tissue containing eggs from a patient. Once a patient has completed their course of treatment and is either in remission or of child-bearing age, the ovarian tissue strips can be thawed and either re-implanted into the ovary to allow them to try to conceive naturally or the eggs can be retrieved and fertilised in vitro and the embryo implanted in the uterus.
Complete Fertility Centre is just one of two Centres in the UK that can provide ovarian tissue cryopreservation.
It is currently the only centre in England to offer this service with NHS funding. Initially, NHS funding will be available to patients living in areas covered by the West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which includes Andover, Eastleigh, Winchester, Totton and the New Forest.
Sperm can be frozen and stored for future use. Sperm freezing is the most effective way to preserve male fertility.