5 ways to invest in your future self: a beginner’s guide to fertility preservation

5 ways to invest in your future self: a beginner’s guide to fertility preservation
Fertility preservation involves saving your eggs, sperm, or reproductive tissue so that you can have control over your own fertility timeline. Here’s what you need to know about your different options.
Written by Christina Ren, MS, CGC 
Medically reviewed by Cristina Vidal, RN
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Hospital with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.
Orchid offers advanced genetic testing for couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. As part of our “Pregnancy and Fertility” series, we distill down your fertility treatment options and help you navigate the complex process.

Why do people pursue fertility preservation? Who can benefit?

Fertility preservation describes treatment options that give people an opportunity to have biological children at a later time. Here are three common reasons why people choose to consider fertility preservation:

  1. You want to keep your reproductive options open. A growing number of people are choosing to delay having children. For some, the power to redraw their timelines without the pressure of age affecting fertility provides them the gift of time and flexibility. Fertility preservation is an option for both couples and single individuals. 
  2. You’re starting cancer treatment. This may include chemotherapy medications, radiation therapy, or surgery. These types of therapies can impact fertility for both men and women. Generally, fertility preservation options are pursued before cancer treatment and can usually be completed in a short period of time. 
  3. You’re transitioning gender through treatment. Transgender transition through hormonal treatment or sex reassignment surgery can impact fertility. Various options are available to individuals who wish to have biological children in the future.

How do you preserve fertility? Common types of fertility preservation

Treatment options available for fertility preservation include: 
  1. Egg freezing
  2. Embryo freezing
  3. Sperm freezing
  4. Ovarian tissue freezing
  5. Testicular tissue freezing
  • Egg freezing is a way to preserve fertility for women by freezing unfertilized eggs. An egg retrieval procedure is needed, which involves hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce many mature eggs. The eggs can then be thawed, fertilized with a pattern’s or donor’s sperm, and transferred back to the woman’s uterus to try achieving pregnancy.
  • Embryo freezing is a similar process as egg freezing, except eggs are fertilized with sperm to create embryos before cryopreservation. Embryos can be thawed and transferred into the uterus (usually one embryo per transfer attempt).

You might be wondering, “should I freeze my eggs or freeze embryos?” Here we outline some factors to consider when weighing the pros and cons of each option. Remember these are based on averages and can go up or down depending on each individual.

Egg vs. Embryo Freezing
1. Goldman et al., 2017 2. FertilityIQ data

The bottom line: egg freezing provides flexibility for women who prefer not to decide on the sperm source right now, while embryo freezing provides predictability because it offers the best chance for future pregnancy.

Other fertility preservation options:
  • Sperm freezing is a way to preserve fertility for men. This is most commonly done by providing a sperm sample through ejaculation. Some male patients may not produce sperm through ejaculation and may need surgical testicular sperm extraction to cryopreserve their sperm. 
  • Ovarian tissue freezing is generally considered an experimental procedure in which tissue from the ovary is surgically removed for possible future use as a source of immature eggs. It is the only fertility preservation option currently available for pre-pubescent girls facing cancer treatment that can affect their future fertility. Some adult female patients may opt to cryopreserve their ovarian tissue if they need to start chemotherapy treatment right away and have limited time for egg freezing. Currently, treatment is expensive because surgery by laparoscopy is needed.
  • Testicular tissue freezing is similar to ovarian tissue freezing in which tissue from the testicles is surgically removed for possible use in the future as a source of sperm cells. It is an option for pre-pubescent boys facing cancer treatment that can impact their future sperm quality and function.

Final thoughts

Each person’s future family building plans are unique. There’s no single right answer.

If you are considering fertility preservation, make an appointment with a fertility specialist to discuss your options. If you choose to create and freeze embryos, you can also consider embryo screening to reduce your child’s potential genetic risks. 

Fertility treatment and reproductive medicine have come a long way since IVF was first introduced over 40 years ago. Today, advanced embryo testing is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.
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