As we all know, this is an era of a staggering increase of people looking to back-up their gametes in order to preserve their genetics and future fertility.
We see advertisements offering women the opportunity to save their eggs, in places called Cryobanks. Their offer is focused in women as well as men. We know men freeze their sperm for future use. Couples freeze their embryos, because most fertility procedures get remaining embryos that might end in future babies named back-up babies. This information sounds quite overwhelming when we put it together, but let’s simplify things.
Today more women freeze their eggs for several reasons. Most women are simply not prepared to become mothers during their best fertile years, and once they are finally prepared, their reserve of eggs has depleted considerably and the risk of genetic diseases increases. Having this panorama, it is a great idea to have a back-up plan, which was not available a few years ago, and freeze the eggs when their fertility is at its best. It is difficult to argue this is a clever plan. There is a huge number of successful women who are not prepared to give up their jobs and careers to become mothers; for them this is a great alternative, a win-win situation.
Another important reason to freeze eggs is when a woman has not found the right partner yet. Once she finds it in the future, it will be possible to create healthy embryos using her partner sperm. Those embryos will have the age she had when she froze them. The chances of genetic diseases will be reduced as youngest the age of the egg freeze.
One of the most remarkable situations to use egg freeze it it for women facing cancer. These women should freeze their eggs before any cancer treatment if performed, otherwise the chances of getting a healthy egg or any egg will be dramatically reduced. Thanks to this alternative, they will be able to use their stored gametes in the future. Cancer will not become a future problem for fertility.
Most oncologist do not mention the alternatives of fertility back-ups with cryopreservation. An approximate 75% of oncologists do not mention it during the consultation, prior to the cancer treatment; another 15% of oncologist mention it but do not wait for the freezing to be done prior the cancer treatment. Another 10% of oncologists recommend gamete freezing before the cancer treatment and find alternatives to wait for the freezing to be done. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation is a very useful technique in case of cancer treatments that need to start very quick, and do not have the time to wait for hormonal stimulation and egg retrieval to happen.
Men also have the need to preserve their fertility for several reasons. Many men today are aware that anything can change and affect their fertility capacity at any moment. Another reason it is a fertility procedure that requires to have back-up samples frozen as a precaution (30% of men decreased the quality of their sperm sample the day of the fertility treatment, because of stress and the feeling of pressure). Male cancer is another reason to freeze their gametes, because the same as for women, their fertility chances will decrease dramatically after the cancer treatment. Although males have more chances of recover their fertility than women. Also, if men use any drugs, steroids, medications or alcohol consumption; they should freeze their sperm before it is too late.
Embryo freeze is another alternative of fertility cryopreservation. Many patients with several embryos remaining from a fertility procedure have the benefit to freeze those embryos and use them in the future. Also couples looking for fertility preservation in case of diseases of one of them. Or patients who are just not prepared to become parents yet.
Today we can freeze almost everything we want in the reproductive area, and still get promising results. With all the new advances, this will improve a lot more and offer better survival rates for gametes.
Eggs usually do not have the same survival rate after thaw as embryos do. However the techniques have been improving very much in the last years and today those survival rates have increased.
I always advice to patients to think about the alternative of fertility cryopreservation and consider the many advantages that brings. It is better to have it there and not need it, than need it and do not have it. That is my say.