Fertility Preservation Before Cancer Treatment
Egg or Embryo Freezing
The physicians and staff at Fertility Centers of Illinois are dedicated leaders in the field of reproduction. We understand the time constraints and emotional stress of patients facing cancer treatment, as well as the concern over the potential negative impact on future fertility. We offer expedited, compassionate care at a discounted rate for egg or embryo freezing prior to cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation can damage eggs and possibly render a woman infertile. Freezing a woman’s eggs (egg Vitrification), or embryos created with the sperm of her partner or an anonymous donor (embryo vitrification), allows her the chance to have a genetic child in the future. This can be accomplished if a woman has an adequate response to ovarian Stimulation drugs, leading to a successful Egg Retrieval and viable eggs or embryos to freeze.
Although the ability to freeze sperm and embryos has been available for decades, Oocyte (egg) freezing has been challenging due to the tendency of the egg to produce ice crystals during the freezing process.
Currently, vitrification offers the best solution to the problem. Vitrification is a simple procedure in which an oocyte or embryo is placed in a small volume of medium containing cryoprotectant and then cooled at an extremely rapid rate. The fast freezing eliminates the formation of ice crystals in the oocyte or embryo. The oocyte or embryo is then stored in liquid nitrogen until it is time to be thawed and transferred to the Uterus
Egg vitrification is new technology and is still considered experimental. Additional studies are needed, but early reports hold great promise. For this reason, if a woman has a male partner or is willing to use donor sperm, it is preferable to undergo embryo vitrification, as this process has been successfully used in human reproductive medicine for many years. However, there is no guarantee that, when thawed, eggs or embryos will be viable and able to produce a pregnancy that results in a healthy baby.
Who is a candidate for these procedures?
- Candidates for egg freezing are women up to the age of 40 who do not currently have a male partner or prefer not to use sperm from a partner or donor. Patients must have medical clearance from their oncologists to use injectable fertility medications and to undergo the egg retrieval procedure.
- Candidates for embryo freezing are women up to the age of 45 who wish to use the sperm of a male partner or anonymous donor to create embryos. These women must also have clearance from their oncologists to undergo the procedure and to use injectable fertility medications.
- All women going through egg or embryo freezing must be willing to take daily injections and attend frequent office appointments (sometimes daily) for approximately two weeks.
What do I do next if I’m interested in learning more or starting a Cycle?
- Contact your oncologist to inquire if it is medically appropriate for you to undergo IVF for fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment. If so, please ask your oncologist to write a medical clearance letter for you to go through this treatment and to use fertility medications. Let your oncologist know that our physicians are available at any time to answer questions regarding your treatment during the fertility preservation process.
- Call Fertility Centers of Illinois to make an appointment with a physician, indicating that you are interested in fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment. You will have the opportunity to see a physician very quickly, generally within a few days of your call.
- Please bring your medical clearance letter and any applicable medical records with you to your initial appointment. Your physician will review the entire process with you, as well as your other options for family building, such as donor services and adoption.
- Following the initial physician consultation, a nurse specializing in fertility preservation will guide you through the rest of the process. You will also be welcome to speak with our staff psychologist, Dr. Marie Davidson, any time you feel you could use some extra support.
- Following egg retrieval, your eggs or embryos will be frozen and stored at FCI’s IVF Center.
What happens when I’m ready to get pregnant?
- You will again need a letter of medical clearance from your oncologist to ensure you are healthy, able to use fertility medications, and ready to carry a pregnancy. Some patients may be unable or advised not to carry a pregnancy following cancer treatment. Please be aware that FCI offers treatment using a gestational carrier (a woman who will carry the pregnancy for you).
- FCI has set guidelines for women wishing to receive embryos with respect to health and age. With approval from the oncologist, FCI will allow transfer of embryos to women up to the age of 50.
- Schedule an appointment with your FCI physician to review the process of frozen embryo transfer.
- When you are ready to conceive, you will begin taking medicine to prepare your uterus for pregnancy. If you had previously frozen eggs rather than embryos, you may use sperm from either a current partner or a donor to fertilize the eggs three to five days before embryo transfer.
- At the appropriate time, the recommended number of embryos will be transferred into your uterus. Extra embryos can remain frozen. Should the treatment result in pregnancy, you will continue taking hormones for several weeks and, at the appropriate time, your FCI physician will transfer your care to the obstetrician who will deliver your baby.