Egg (or sperm) freezing…Who needs it?
Freezing (cryopreservation) of reproductive cells can be done in a number of situations where patients want to preserve their fertility for the future:
Elective freezing/banking: Women who want or need to delay childbearing in order to pursue educational, career, or other personal goals. Because fertility declines with advancing age, banking your eggs now may better insure your chance for a pregnancy later. We can also freeze sperm before military deployment, or any other circumstance where long gaps in travel may make fertility treatment difficult.
Unlike the ovary, oocytes (eggs), or sperm, the human uterus does not age significantly; it can carry a healthy pregnancy well past age 50. Cryopreserved eggs don’t age because they are stored at -196°C, a temperature so low that no metabolic activity can occur. This means that egg quality is not compromised—probably for centuries, “under ice.”
Patients recently diagnosed with cancer: Egg or sperm freezing offers a chance to preserve eggs before radiation, surgery, or chemo. While these can be very effective cancer treatments, one unfortunate side-effect of these interventions is that they can harm sperm or eggs, incidentally resulting in sterility. Of course, in some cases viable eggs or sperm may be present after cancer treatment, but this is one technique many patients consider to have at least some cells available as “back up.”
IVF patients who do not want to store frozen embryos for philosophical or religious reasons. In standard IVF, sometimes patients can have excess embryos. The decision to freeze non-transferred embryos may not be easy when considering how, when, or if they will ever be used.