Fertility preservation refers to several medical procedures that freeze a woman’s eggs, ovarian tissue or embryos so they can be used to conceive a child at a later time. The term “elective” simply means that the procedure is the patient’s choice — not a medical necessity — because they want to have children in the future.
Women may have many personal reasons for choosing elective fertility preservation. Whatever the reason, having the option is important because a woman’s fertility rapidly drops every year after the age of 35. This means that women may increase their chance of having a healthy baby after 35 by using elective fertility preservation.
Cryopreservation, or freezing, is the method used to preserve fertility safely. When it comes to the specific procedures, women have three options:
To preserve an egg, the woman takes fertility drugs to trigger maturation of eggs in the ovaries. The eggs are then harvested and either immediately frozen or fertilized in the lab then frozen.
Preservation of ovarian tissue involves removing part or all of the ovary, using safe laparoscopic surgery. The outer layer of the ovary contains numerous immature eggs, so freezing the ovarian tissues preserves the eggs in their natural environment.
Dr. Oktay is a leading expert in fertility preservation, particularly in cryopreservation of ovarian tissue. In fact, the July 13, 2017 issue of the Daily Mail featured his latest groundbreaking study about ovarian tissue cryopreservation.
Dr. Oktay acknowledges that the procedure is not as well tested in healthy women because it’s primarily used in women with cancer. However, his research shows that ovarian tissue freezing provides two benefits that women won’t get from preserving eggs:
Natural conception: When ovarian tissue is returned to the woman’s body, the immature eggs grow into mature eggs, which restarts the normal monthly cycle and allows her to get pregnant naturally without fertility treatment.
Menopause reversal or delay: Replacing young ovarian tissue stimulates the production and release of estrogen, which reverses or postpones menopause.
Dr. Oktay’s study revealed that almost two out of three women were able to reverse menopause or restore their reproductive function. Nearly two-thirds were able to conceive naturally without in vitro fertilization. HIs findings strongly support the notion that ovarian tissue freezing should no longer be considered an experimental strategy for fertility preservation.