Various types of fertility preservation are on offer, depending on your needs.
The most common types are sperm freezing, egg freezing and embryo freezing.
What is fertility preservation?
Fertility Preservation is a medical process whereby people at risk of losing their fertility can opt to have reproductive tissues stored so that they have the chance to produce biological children in the future.
Egg cells, sperm cells, embryos, or ovarian or testicular tissues, are carefully frozen and stored safely. These tissues can then be thawed out and used to produce viable children for many years after freezing.
Who can benefit from fertility preservation?
One of the most widely known types of fertility preservation is egg freezing, often used by women to prevent fertility loss due to ageing. Fertility preservation is also widely used by cancer patients about to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as these treatments are toxic to reproductive tissues and can cause total infertility. Fertility preservation is also used by those whose jobs carry a high risk of injury, such as those in the Armed Forces, and by transgender patients about to undergo reconstructive surgery or start hormone therapy.
Different types of fertility preservation
Various types of fertility preservation are on offer, depending on your needs. The most common types are:
Egg freezing – a woman’s eggs are frozen so that they can be used in IVF in the future. Women often choose this method of fertility preservation to ward against a natural decline in fertility, because they are not yet ready for a child, or to act as insurance if they are about to undergo medical treatment which may cause infertility.
Sperm freezing – a man’s sperm is frozen, either to be used in his own treatment, or to be donated towards someone else’s fertility treatment. Sperm can be collected from boys as young as 13. This method is commonly used by patients about to undergo medical treatment which may cause infertility, and sometimes by men who are about to undergo a vasectomy and want sperm available in case they change their mind.
Embryo freezing – couples undergoing IVF can freeze leftover embryos for use in the future. This method can also be used when a couple isn’t ready for a family yet, but one partner is about to undergo medical treatment which may leave them infertile.
Success rates of fertility preservation
No method of fertility preservation is infallible. However, medical knowledge and skill in this area is rapidly increasing. Sperm freezing is the most successful, and frozen sperm has roughly the same rate of conception as fresh sperm. Embryo freezing is also often successful, and success rates are broadly similar whether fresh embryos or frozen embryos are used. In 2016, 1 in 3 IVF cycles used frozen embryos. Egg freezing is now well established and success rates have improved significantly over the years with a method of freezing eggs, called vitrification.