Fertility Preservation: What does it mean?
By Dr. Sonu Talwar
Fertility Preservation is a process wherein either :
- Eggs or
- Reproductive tissue
is preserved to help individuals to have their biological children later.
Who Are the individuals who can benefit from fertility preservation?
These include people who:
- Are about to be treated for cancer both male & female
- Are about to be treated for an autoimmune disease, such as lupus
- Have a genetic disease that affects future fertility
- Delay having children.
What fertility-preserving options are available?
Several fertility-preserving options are available. Fertility-preserving options for males include:
- Sperm cryopreservation: In this process, a male provides samples of his semen. The semen is then frozen and stored for future use in a process called cryopreservation. This semen sample can be thawed & used at an appropriate time later.
- Gonadal shielding: Radiation treatment for cancer and other conditions can harm fertility, especially if it is used in the pelvic area. Some radiation treatments use modern techniques to aim the rays in a very small area. The testicles can also be protected with a lead shield. Fertility-preservation techniques for females include:
- Embryo cryopreservation: This method, also called embryo freezing, is the most common and successful option for preserving a female's fertility. Eggs are retrieved from the ovaries & then fertilized with sperm from her partner or a donor in a lab in a process called in-vitro- fertilization(IVF). The resulting embryos are frozen and stored for future use.
- Oocyte cryopreservation: This option is similar to embryo cryopreservation, except that unfertilized eggs are frozen and stored.
- Gonadal shielding for Females: This process is similar to gonadal shielding for males. Steps are taken, such as aiming rays at a small area or covering the pelvic area with a lead shield, to protect the ovaries from radiation.
- Ovarian transposition: A minor surgery is performed to move the ovaries and sometimes the fallopian tubes from the area that will receive radiation to an area that will not receive radiation. For example, they may be relocated to an area of the abdomen wall that will not receive radiation. This technique protects the function of gonads.
Some of these options, such as sperm, oocyte, and embryo cryopreservation, are available only to males and females who have gone through puberty and have mature sperm and eggs. However, gonadal shielding and ovarian transposition can be used to preserve fertility in children who have not gone through puberty.
Fertility preservation helps individuals to have biological children of their own, who were unable to do so in the paste,g, Cancer survivors, women who decide to delay childbearing.