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Freezing sperms and eggs for future use

The Clinic By Dr. Alfred Murage
Photo; Courtesy

Advances in assisted conception have enabled preservation of fertility for various reasons. You can literally maintain your fertility potential way beyond the limits of natural conception. The choice is between freezing fertilized eggs (called embryos), or freezing the eggs themselves.

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Your man can also freeze his sperms for future use. Once frozen, the embryos, eggs or sperms remain ready to be used for pregnancy at a time of your choice. This can be many years in the future.

You can choose to preserve your fertility either because of medical or social reasons. Medical reasons for fertility preservation are mainly occasioned by a diagnosis of cancer well before child-bearing is complete.

Cancer treatments tend to damage the function of the ovaries (and testes in men), thereby limiting the potential to achieve a pregnancy following recovery from the cancer. Once a diagnosis of some cancer is made in young age, affected women (and men) can go through the process of fertility preservation prior to commencing treatment.

This gives some back-up for future conception should irreversible damage occur in the ovaries or testes following completion of the cancer treatment.

Increasing pressure from education, careers and other social factors have all contributed to couples delaying child-bearing till much later in life. That natural fertility declines with age means that couples will increasingly struggle to get a baby, especially if conception is delayed beyond the age of 35.

This then becomes a reason to consider preserving your fertility, if your plans for child-bearing are well into the late 30s or 40s. You can simply get your eggs preserved, or better still preserve embryos if already in a steady relationship.

Fertility preservation often mandates going through the process of assisted conception (IVF). The eggs get removed from the ovaries, and are then frozen. Sperm freezing is relatively easy as men just need to provide a semen sample.

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 If feasible, fertilization will be done in the lab to allow freezing of embryos. A portion of the ovary can also be frozen and later re-implanted into the body to allow resumption of function and subsequent pregnancy.

Once ready for pregnancy, the eggs, sperms or embryos just need to be thawed for use. Pregnancies continue to be reported following fertility preservation for as many as 10 years and beyond.

Factors to take into account when considering fertility preservation include cost and associated risks. For those with cancer, the process of fertility preservation may undesirably delay commencement of the appropriate treatment. Drugs used to enhance fertility preservation may also have a negative effect on some specific cancers.

Once a reason to preserve fertility becomes apparent, always seek advice from the relevant experts. This will usually comprise of fertility experts and cancer specialists if a diagnosis of cancer has been made. Endeavour to make use of fertility preservation options when your situation demands so.

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