What are your fertility preservation options?
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Video: What Are Your Fertility Preservation Options?

Some women choose to put off having a baby. For them, fertility preservation options are important to consider. If you aren’t ready now to have a baby, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital offers several fertility preservation options.

There are two potential types of candidates for these procedures, says Kyle Orwig, PhD, director of the Fertility Preservation Program in Pittsburgh.

“Women who are receiving medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, which can lead to premature infertility and menopause, may want to consider fertility preservation,” says Dr. Orwig. “It also can be an option for women who want to delay childbearing.”


Preserving Fertility: What to Consider

For those women who don’t want to start a family until they’re financially, academically, or professionally ready, freezing embryos is an elective fertility preservation option.

According to Dr. Orwig, the ideal candidate is a healthy woman in her mid-20s to early-30s who may want to delay motherhood for at least a decade. “It’s best to harvest a woman’s eggs before fertility rates drop in her mid-30s,” he explains. “If a 28-year-old woman wants to get pregnant at age 31, there’s no great benefit in fertility preservation.”

Some other fertility preservation methods, such as freezing ovarian and testicular tissue, are considered experimental. They’re promising options, says Dr. Orwig, but are currently available only to patients receiving treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

RELATED: How Does In Vitro Fertilization Work? A Guide to IVF

Egg Freezing

Freezing eggs, once considered experimental, has been practiced for more than a decade. When you want to get pregnant, the egg is thawed in the lab and fertilized with the partner’s sperm to create an embryo for in vitro fertilization.

For many years, embryo freezing was the go-to method for fertility preservation. “The feeling was that eggs didn’t survive as well as embryos,” says Dr. Orwig. “Now we’re seeing that’s not the case. In fact, recent data suggests that pregnancy rates are similar with preserved embryos and preserved eggs.”

Freezing eggs has its advantages, he adds. “Egg freezing gives a woman the choice of when to have a child and with a partner she chooses.”

How Egg Freezing Works

For 12 to 21 days, a woman receives hormone injections to stimulate egg production.

“It’s a minor surgical procedure done under light sedation,” says Dr. Orwig. “The eggs are removed through the vagina using a needle. They are then frozen and kept in the lab for later use.”

Some other fertility preservation methods, such as freezing ovarian and testicular tissue, are considered experimental. They’re promising options, says Dr. Orwig, but are currently available only to patients receiving treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Pros and Cons of Preserving Fertility

As with any procedure, patients need to weigh the pros and cons of fertility preservation. The process can be expensive, including the cost of the procedure, medications, and an annual storage fee. There also are costs associated with assisted reproduction processes such as in vitro fertilization. And hormone injections, which are required for egg stimulation, can be uncomfortable.

The main advantage to preserving fertility is your ability to become pregnant with a healthy baby on your own time table, and with a partner you choose. The success rate using frozen eggs is 36 to 61 percent live births per embryo transfer. Overall, says Dr. Orwig, that’s “about the same success rate as the normal way of getting pregnant.”

To find out more about fertility preservation options at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital please contact Fertility Preservation Program or email fertilitypreservation@upmc.edu.


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