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Cryopreservation for Fertility Preservation

What is cryopreservation?

Cryopreservation is the freezing and storage of mature eggs or embryos, whether for medical or social reasons, for later use in assisted reproductive treatments. This technology can give a woman the potential to conceive in the future if she is unable to become pregnant naturally or if she would like to delay becoming a parent.

Many factors can limit a woman’s future ability to conceive, making cryopreservation an option. These factors include:

  • Planned surgery to remove the ovaries
  • Radiation/chemotherapy that can damage eggs and reproductive organs
  • Medications that can alter egg quality
  • Genetic/medical causes of rapidly decreasing egg numbers
  • Advancing age.

Women may also choose to delay pregnancy due to career, relationship or other social factors.

Cryopreservation for social reasons

The natural decline in available eggs is one of the most common causes of infertility. Women are born with their lifelong supply of eggs, and as they age their egg numbers diminish. While a woman is physically able to carry a pregnancy to term well into her 40s, the quality of the eggs produced declines significantly starting around the age of 35. When a woman no longer has any viable eggs left, she enters menopause and is infertile.

RSCNJ offers treatment options to help women address the ever-growing disconnect between the readiness to have children and the biological limitations of aging eggs. Many women are waiting longer to have children due to social factors such as career, education, travel and relationships. In some cases, maternal age then becomes a factor in achieving the goal of parenthood. With egg and embryo cryopreservation however, women can take a proactive role to protect their future fertility.

Cryopreservation prior to cancer treatment

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can speed up the natural decline in available eggs, thereby reducing or destroying the egg reserve. They can also harm reproductive organs, making pregnancy difficult or impossible. The risk of being infertile after cancer treatment depends upon the treatment, the woman’s fertility before treatment and her age.

Dr. Alan Martinez discusses fertility preservation when undergoing cancer treatment. 

Insurance coverage for fertility preservation

On January 13, 2020, New Jersey’s Governor signed new legislation that gives individuals with diseases like cancer mandated coverage with certain insurance plans for fertility preservation treatments.

Fertility preservation programs

Ferring Fertility Heartbeat Program

This program aims to make it easy for patients to receive select fertility medications at no cost. Click below for more information on program offerings and qualification requirements or call 888-347-3415.

ReUnite Oncofertility Program

This program offers discounts on the Follistim AQ Cartridge, Ganirelix Acetate Injection and Pregnyl medications to oncology patients undergoing fertility preservation. Click below for more information on program eligibility and how to apply or call 844-385-5403.

Chick Mission

RSCNJ is proud to partner with Chick Mission, a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure every young woman newly diagnosed with cancer has the option to preserve fertility through direct financial support, educational programs, and advocacy efforts.

To advance their cause, Chick Mission works directly with fertility practices to provide monetary need-based grants to assist patients with the cost of fertility preservation. RSCNJ is delighted to be a Chick Mission partner practice.

Cryopreservation options

Embryo freezing

Embryo freezing, sometimes referred to as embryo banking, is the most common and most successful way to preserve fertility. In  is used to fertilize a woman’s eggs with sperm in a lab, and the resulting embryos are frozen. IVF may be done using a partner’s or donor’s sperm.

If a woman is undergoing cancer treatment, IVF and embryo freezing are performed before she starts treatment. Egg retrieval and IVF for embryo creation takes place approximately two weeks after the onset of the woman’s period.

About 50-70 percent of the embryos will survive the thawing process and be available to transfer to her uterus when the woman is ready to attempt conception. This process is called frozen embryo transfer or FET.

Pregnancy rates are approximately 40 percent per embryo replacement, although this varies with the quality of the embryos and the woman’s age at the time of freezing.

Egg freezing

Egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) is an option for women who do not have a partner, do not want to use donor sperm or have ethical or religious objections to embryo freezing. The process of egg freezing is similar to embryo freezing, as outlined above.

After 10-12 days of hormone injections to stimulate the woman’s ovaries, the physician retrieves the eggs. The unfertilized eggs are then frozen for future use. As with embryo cryopreservation, egg freezing takes place approximately two weeks after the onset of a woman’s period.

When the woman is ready to use her cryopreserved eggs, they are thawed and surviving eggs are fertilized with sperm from her partner or donor using IVF. One or more of the resulting embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus.

In most cases, RSCNJ is able to cryopreserve 5-15 eggs in a cycle, of which 70-80 percent will likely survive the freeze/thaw process. We would expect 50-70 percent of the thawed eggs to fertilize. The success rate is approximately 30 percent each time an embryo is created from a frozen egg and is placed into the woman’s uterus.

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