The process of preserving and protecting reproductive tissue, egg or sperm that can be used to produce biological children later in life is known as fertility preservation. This is a technique that helps people retain their fertility, hence preserving their ability to procreate. This technique helps those who face a probability for infertility in the near future. Though not commonly available, the technique of fertility preservation is available in some leading hospitals offering gynaecological or fertility treatments.
Fertility preservation is usually done for patients who are expecting a delay in settling down. With increasing career goal, both women and men find it difficult to allocate their time and attention for family, until they reach their career goal. Fertility preservation is an ideal technique for these kind of people. By using this method, they do not have to worry about infertility due to aging.
We all have to work for a living. Those working in areas that are risky for fertility can opt to have their reproductive tissues preserved. This technique is a good option for those who have to work with heavy metals like asbestos or in chemical industries. In women, with disorders like endometriosis, fertility preservation would assist them in procreating. Other disorders leading to infertility like presence of fibroids or polycystic ovary syndrome, can be made less threatening by this technique. The preserved egg can be used only if a need arises.
Cancer patients are another group of people highly benefitted by this method. Certain treatments for cancer can leave you sterile. Though the effects can be temporary, making use of fertility preservation before beginning the treatment is ideal. The probability of cancer or the treatment affecting fertility largely depends on the age of the patient, treatments involved and the stage of cancer.
Chemotherapy, radiation or surgical removal of organs in the reproductive system can hamper fertility in men. The probability of the onset of premature menopause is high in younger women or girls undergoing cancer treatment. Radiation applied anywhere near ovaries or testicles eventually lead to infertility. Alkylating agent, a drug used in chemotherapy is a big hazard for fertility. People with autoimmune disease like lupus, who have little chance of conceiving naturally can make use of this technique.
Fertility preservation is done differently for men and women. The various methods of fertility preservation in men are as follows: -
Sperm cryopreservation - In this method, semen is collected from men. They are then frozen and stored for future use.
Gonadal shielding – Radiation treatment can spoil fertility especially if directed at testicular area. Gonadal shielding is done to protect this are by a lead shield during radiation therapy.
Fertility preservation technique for women include: -
Embryo Cryopreservation – in this method egg is collected from women and fused with the sperm of her partner or donor in the lab. The resulting embryo is frozen and stored.
Ovarian tissue cryopreservation – ovarian tissues are removed and frozen before chemo or radiotherapy. These tissues can then be implanted in certain areas of the body and egg production can be initiated.
Oocyte Cryopreservation – the unfertilised eggs are frozen and stored.
These methods are applicable for people who have at least attained puberty. For children below that age gonadal shielding and ovarian transposition can be done.