(Freezing / Fertility Preservation)
Fertility preservation is a term used for interventions and procedures aiming at preserving eggs, sperm or embryo to enable a woman or a couple to plan a pregnancy at a later time.
One important component of fertility treatment and method of fertility preservation is Cryopreservation.
What is Cryopreservation?
Cryopreservation is a process in which biological material such as eggs, sperm and embryos are frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen at an ultra-low temperature of minus 196 degrees.
At this temperature, all metabolic activities in the cells cease and hence can then be preserved in such state for any number of days, months or years, so that they can be used at a later time when they are ready to conceive a child.
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is an Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) technique that involves, egg retrieval, freezing and storing of a woman’s unfertilized eggs for conception at a later stage of her life.
How is egg freezing conducted?
The woman has to undergo daily injections of hormones to stimulate the growth of eggs until they reach a mature stage for retrieval.
The retrieval of eggs is done under anaesthesia and the eggs are then frozen and stored. They can be thawed when the woman is ready to try for a baby, but IVF or ICSI is the only method by which the eggs can be utilized for treatment.
Indications for Oocyte/Egg freezing
- Cancer therapy (Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy are detrimental to both the egg and sperm production, function, and can also cause genetic damage)
- Medical/metabolic conditions (medicines used for a few medical disorders can decrease the fertility potential)
- Autoimmune diseases (some of which affect the functioning of the testis and ovaries)
- Surgical interventions especially ones done in the reproductive organs for a medical condition (can decrease the size & function of the ovaries or affect their functioning)
- For the purpose of egg/oocyte donation
- Advancing age (especially in women as age affects both the number and quality of eggs)
Biologically, it is easier to get pregnant before age 30. However, due to personal, professional, social, or medical reasons, a woman might not be ready to get pregnant at that time and would like the opportunity to have a child when she is ready. As fertility naturally declines after 30 years and even more so after 35 years and because the chance of birth defects increases as a woman’s age increases, Egg freezing offers hope to still have healthy eggs for reproduction when she is ready to conceive.
Sperm freezing is an Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) technique that involves semen collection, freezing and storing for conception at a later stage of his life.
How is sperm freezing conducted?
The semen sample is to be collected by masturbation in a sterilized container in a private Semen sample Collection room at the fertility centre. The Semen collection in the hospital is preferable but if you are not comfortable with that, semen can be collected at home and then transported to the hospital following all the necessary precautions which will be given by our staff.
The sample is first analyzed and then processed, frozen, labelled and stored in liquid nitrogen tanks in the laboratory.
The frozen sperm sample can be thawed and used for IUI, IVF or ICSI.
Indications for Semen freezing
- When the sperm count and quality are extremely low and there is a risk of the sperm count decreasing further.
- Freezing of semen is recommended prior to the IVF/ICSI treatment cycle which is used as a backup on the actual day of treatment if the male partner is unable to produce a sample on demand due to psychological stress.
- When the male partner is going to be away from his female partner for a long time (in another town/state/country) and is unable to come and provide a fresh semen sample on the day of treatment in IUI/IVF/ICSI treatments, the wife can begin/continue treatment if a semen sample has been frozen.
- Prior to Vasectomy, varicocele surgery or any surgery related to the reproductive tract.
- Cancer therapy (radiotherapy and chemotherapy are detrimental to sperm production and function and can also cause genetic damage)
- Medical/metabolic conditions (a few medicines used for a few medical disorders can affect the functioning of the testis)
- Autoimmune diseases (can decrease the fertility potential)
Embryo freezing is an assisted reproduction technology (ART) technique that involves creating embryos via IVF/ICSI, freezing and storing embryos for conception at a later stage of life.
Indications for Embryo freezing
- For couples who want to freeze their embryos due to medical /social reasons and plan pregnancy at a later date.
- During IVF/ICSI treatment cycle: The excess embryos are cryopreserved for future cycles.
Possible advantages of cryopreservation of embryos include:
- Avoids the need for repeated ovarian stimulation of the woman.
- Dramatic cost reduction of future IVF/ICSI cycles.
- Reduction of the risk of triplets or quadruplets by cryopreservation of embryos exceeding an optimal number for transfer to an individual patient.
- Possibly increasing pregnancy rates by replacing thawed embryos during spontaneous ovulatory cycles or cycles in which the estrogen and progesterone hormone levels do not exceed that which occurs naturally.
- Can be stored to be used in future IVF cycles in case of OHSS.