Life moves very quickly at times, and some of the things you want to do may conflict with your desire to raise a family. Relationships, career plans, and your personal health can easily lead you to postponing having a child until later in life, but fertility diminishes over time. Thankfully, there are several ways you can achieve a successful pregnancy later in life thanks to various procedures including in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination. Female patients may also extend their fertility by freezing eggs or embryos. Men can also choose to have their sperm frozen for later use.
Fertility preservation, commonly called “egg freezing,” is a safe and effective way to preserve eggs in their current state. This prevents them from diminishing over time and maximizes your future fertility. While many people choose fertility preservation so they pursue things like careers, education, and personal relationships, some unexpected concerns like cancer diagnoses can also impede your family building goals. Whether you’re choosing to extend your fertility or want to preserve your ability to have children in the future after receiving a cancer diagnosis, speak with one of the specialists at RMA-FL today about your options.
Fertility & Cancer
One of the most unfortunate aspects of many cancer treatments is they can impair female fertility. Chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and other cancer therapies can damage ovarian function. Patients who want to have a family in the future can benefit from fertility preservation procedures. It’s imperative to meet with a fertility specialist as soon as possible after a positive cancer diagnosis. A fertility specialist can quickly preserve your eggs for future use before beginning treatment, and most fertility specialists will expedite cancer patients’ procedures since time is a critical factor for both preserving fertility and starting cancer treatment.
If you’re considering fertility preservation due to a cancer diagnosis, it’s vital that you coordinate your fertility care with your oncologist and your RMA-FL team. Unfortunately, some types of cancer may prioritize treatment over fertility preservation.
The Biological Clock
Most people are aware that fertility diminishes over time. Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have, typically between one and two million per woman. By the time a woman reaches her 30s, her pool of eggs will be less than half this amount, and the quality of more than half of the remaining eggs will be low due to various possible genetic influences and age-related issues. Women have far more fertility preservation options when they opt to freeze their eggs at the youngest age possible.
Egg Freezing Process
CONSULTATION AND WORK-UP
Your RMA-FL care team will help you create an individualized plan for your egg freezing procedure. This typically includes hormone testing, an ultrasound, and a standard blood test to assess your hormone levels and ovarian reserve. Cancer patients are usually seen within 24-48 hours.
To stimulate your ovaries and produce more eggs than usual, you’ll need daily injections of gonadotropin. Your RMA-FL team will instruct you how to perform these injections yourself at home, and this process may continue for up to ten days. RMA-FL will monitor your progress using ultrasound and more blood samples. Once your eggs reach the necessary size, a final injection of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) pushes the eggs to the final maturation stage and stimulates ovulation prior to retrieval.
36 hours after the final hCG shot, your RMA-FL team will retrieve the eggs. This procedure typically lasts around 30 minutes and entails mild anesthesia to reduce discomfort. Your doctor uses an ultrasound-guided needle to extract the eggs.
Once removed, the eggs are rapidly frozen and stored. This “vitrification” process cryopreserves (freezes) the eggs while minimizing the buildup of ice crystals. These ice crystals can damage the egg or embryo during the thawing process. Findings from recent scientific studies indicate that more than 80% of thawed eggs survive. You should always opt for vitrification if available as opposed to other cryopreservation methods with lower success rates.
If you have additional questions about fertility preservation and egg freezing, please contact us today.