What is fertility preservation?
Learn about the fertility preservation options out there, to help you conceive at a later date.
While we’re talking all things fertility treatment, we thought it beneficial to get to know the fertility preservation options available. After all, life happens – and if you decide the timing is just not quite right to conceive, or life throws you a curveball, we want you to be aware of the choices you have to protect your future fertility.
Also, it’s pretty amazing that we have these options in the first place, right? Let’s dive in.
Egg freezing is a method of storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs to allow her to try to conceive at a later date. Medical egg freezing is an option when fertility is at risk due to upcoming cancer treatment or serious illness. It’s also becoming an increasingly popular choice for elective reasons.
We mentioned previously the importance of female age and fertility, that the number of eggs you produce rapidly declines as you get older, and sadly there is also an increased risk of miscarriage and chromosomal variations. That’s why we ideally recommend elective egg freezing under the age of 36. If you're over the age of 36, egg freezing could still be possible - we always recommend speaking with a fertility specialist about your individual circumstances to find out if egg freezing could be an avenue for you.
It involves the first part of an IVF cycle, where the ovaries are stimulated to produce more eggs than usual and then these are surgically collected. The collected eggs are carefully vitrified (frozen) and stored for use later. Once you’re ready to use the eggs, the IVF process will continue with your partner’s, or a donor’s, sperm.
The good thing about egg freezing is that your chance of conception is tied to the age at which you froze the eggs, not the age you are when you decide to finish the process. Those little eggs are frozen in time, just for you. And just in case.
The drawback of egg freezing is that you don’t know the quality of the eggs until you thaw them, which is why egg freezing should never be taken as a guarantee of future fertility.
Most often, sperm freezing is used as a way to preserve fertility for medical reasons - if someone is about to undergo cancer treatment, which can harm their sperm production. It’s also an option if you have a partner who travels frequently and cannot physically be there for your optimal fertile window. In both cases, artificial insemination can then help you conceive – or more advanced treatment such as IVF or ICSI may be recommended depending on individual factors and sperm quality.
Sometimes couples are not in a position to have a baby at the moment. Embryo freezing has a good chance of success and offers an extra possibility of future fertility in this situation. However, embryo freezing cannot be considered a guarantee for future fertility and where possible, couples should strive to conceive sooner rather than later. Most commonly this is a choice made for medical reasons. For example, if your fertility becomes at risk from a serious illness such as cancer. The process of embryo freezing involves an IVF cycle, except once the eggs are fertilised by sperm, the resulting embryos are frozen for future use.
At the end of the day, these fertility preservation options are good to be aware of. We have advanced technology and science on our side to help people conceive, no matter what unpredictable path life takes.
If fertility preservation is something you would like to talk through more, we’d be happy to have a chat. Call 1800 111 483 to discuss your options.
Dr Violet Kieu is a consultant Gynaecologist specialising in fertility, reproductive endocrinology, and fertility preservation. Passionate about listening to and understanding the patient journey, she uses Evidence-Based Medicine to improve IVF outcomes by integrating patient values with the best scientific knowledge and clinical expertise. Dr Violet Kieu consults at Melbourne IVF in East Melbourne and Templestowe Lower.