At Arizona Associates for Reproductive Health, we provide fertility preservation options. Fertility preservation, including egg, embryo, and sperm vitrification, can keep reproductive cells for many years until a patient can or is ready to conceive. This treatment is often used for patients with autoimmune disorders or cancer, or for patients who are waiting for other reasons to try conceiving.
Over the past decade, we've had incredible advances in terms of fertility preservation, specifically the ability to preserve the fertility potential of eggs from women. For decades, we've been able to freeze sperm, but the egg, remember, is the largest cell in the body and has the highest water content. So many of the techniques that we've used previously to freeze embryos or to freeze sperm just were not applicable for egg freezing.
So these days, what's done is a very flash freezing type of technique known as vitrification, which allows for preservation of the eggs to be used then at a later time when they're thawed and then allow for fertilization to occur.
So why would someone want to consider fertility preservation in their specific case? Well, the primary instance that we've been utilizing fertility preservation techniques over the past few years has been in regards to a cancer diagnosis in the woman. It's not so much the cancer, or in some cases it's even some autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, it's the medications, the treatments, the chemotherapeutic agents sometimes are cytotoxic or toxic for the eggs and allow for degeneration of the eggs prematurely.
The women then can go through a time where she has degeneration of her egg pool can even result in potentially premature ovarian deficiency or menopausal type conditions. When eggs are vitrified, they're suspended in time, allowing for the woman to choose the time that best suits her lifestyle and her time of life. When they can then, the eggs are then thawed and then fertilized with sperm and then allow for production of embryos that then can be transferred to her uterus for a higher chance of a successful pregnancy than one maybe she would have at the older age that she's considering.
If the woman chooses to consider egg freezing or fertility preservation for her delayed childbearing later in life, she may wish to remove those eggs around in her 20s or in her early 30s, when the eggs have a higher potential to produce normal embryos and successful pregnancies. It's much more difficult to conceive a healthy, normal pregnancy in your late 30s and early 40s than in the early 20s and early 30s.