Couples who face infertility today have choices that were unimaginable only decades ago. Likewise, single women who wish to conceive now, or at a later time, can plan their families accordingly.
In general, options include 1.) collecting and freezing a reserve of healthy eggs, 2.) freezing fertilized eggs (embryos) for future transplantation, and 3.) having your ovaries frozen.
Note that women have full control over their unfertilized eggs and ovaries. However, women who have eggs fertilized by a partner cannot use the eggs without the partner’s permission. For couples in loving, long term relationships, this poses no problem. However, in the case of separation or divorce, the fate of the fertilized eggs may hang in the balance.
For these reasons, women should weigh their options. A good place to start is understanding what each procedure entails.
Egg freezing (cryopreservation) is a method in which eggs are collected and frozen through a slow-freeze method or a flash-freezing process (vitrification). The eggs are stored for implantation after cancer treatment. Depending on the patient’s cycle and response to fertility drugs, it may take from six weeks to nine months to successfully retrieve eggs for freezing.
The freezing of fertilized eggs—or embryos—is often referred to as “embryo banking.” Similar to egg freezing procedures, your egg production may need to be boosted with fertility drugs. Your eggs are harvested, fertilized with partner or donor sperm in a laboratory (also know as in vitro fertilization), then frozen and stored for future use. Note that your partner’s permission is required before embryos can be implanted.
Whole Ovary Freezing
Whole ovary freezing does not require stimulation drugs and can be done immediately. The ovary is removed*, frozen, and transplanted back when you are ready to conceive. *Note that the periphery of the ovary holds all of your eggs and is preserved before freezing, while the rest of the ovary is surgically removed. Whole ovary freezing is also an alternative to tubal reversal, as well.