Fertility Preservation in 2024: Considerations for the Future
Posted on January 31st, 2024
For many people, the beginning of the new year provides an opportunity to assess their life goals. And for some, this may include thinking about family-building. However, even if having a child is something you want to happen in the future, what if you’re not quite ready yet?
The Pros and Cons of Delaying Parenthood
Because of career, health, or other personal reasons, more and more people have been choosing to delay their plans for having children. In fact, the average age of first birth has been increasing rapidly over the past four decades. In some major cities like New York and San Francisco, the average age of first birth is over 31 years old. This is a full generation older than 40 years ago. The idea of having children later in life may make sense, but it can also be more challenging than people realize.
As we get older, our fertility naturally declines. For women, this decline becomes increasingly dramatic after the age of 35, ultimately ending with menopause around the ages of 45 to 55. For men, their decline in fertility isn’t as dramatic, as men can continue producing sperm at older ages; however, men are still more likely to experience issues with sperm count and quality as they get older.
Fertility Preservation Is the Solution
Thanks to assisted reproductive technology, the desire to delay parenthood no longer means that you have to compromise. Fertility preservation makes it possible for you to pursue your life goals on your own terms, including when and how you have a child. For women, fertility preservation involves egg freezing; for men, sperm freezing.
The Egg Freezing Process
Egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation, involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries, freezing them, and storing them for future use. The first part of the procedure involves taking self-administered injections of fertility medications to trigger the ovaries into producing multiple mature eggs in a single ovulation cycle. Once the eggs have reached the ideal level of maturation, they are retrieved through a simple procedure involving an aspirating needle guided by transvaginal ultrasound. The needle gently sucks the eggs from their follicles and collects them.
Once retrieved, the eggs are brought to an embryology lab and treated with a cryoprotectant solution, which shields the precious eggs from damage during freezing and thawing. The eggs are frozen through a rapid freezing process called vitrification. Frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely and used for a future in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle whenever the time is right.
Once thawed, the eggs are typically fertilized using an advanced technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a single sperm is directly injected into a mature egg. Once an embryo is created and reaches the desired embryonic stage, it’s implanted into the woman’s uterus.
The Sperm Freezing Process
Women are not the only ones who can freeze their genetic material for the future – men also have the option of freezing their sperm. Sperm freezing, also known as sperm banking, is a very simple process in comparison to egg freezing. Instead of having to undergo a procedure, most men simply deposit their specimens in a sterile container through masturbation. This is usually done at the clinic so that the semen can be processed immediately.
Before being frozen, the semen sample is subjected to a process called sperm washing. This process separates healthy sperm from the seminal fluid, nonviable sperm, and debris, resulting in a sample highly concentrated with strong viable sperm. From here the process of freezing and thawing the sperm is fairly similar to egg cryopreservation, with the the semen sample being treated with cryoprotectants, flash-frozen via vitrification, stored in liquid nitrogen, and preserved in secure tanks.
Make 2024 Your Year with Fertility Preservation
As you think about your future and the potential of eventually having children, keep in mind that delaying your family-building plans doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your dreams. Fertility preservation can help safeguard your options for when you’re ready, whenever that may be. If you’re interested in learning more about egg freezing or sperm freezing in the Houston metro area, connect with Aspire Houston Fertility Institute today to set up a consultation.
Learn More About Egg Freezing in Our Webinar
On Thursday, February 15, The Prelude Network® is hosting a webinar with a panel of fertility experts from around the country, incuding Dr. Reem Sabouni from Aspire HFI. Join live or watch the replay by registering here.