What is Cryopreservation?

Cryopreservation is a medical process that is designed to artificially freeze eggs, sperm, or embryos for future use. In the realm of in vitro fertilization (IVF), three distinct cryopreservation methods are commonly employed.

What is the Purpose of Cryopreservation?

The prospects of starting a family need not be forsaken. Presently, certain scenarios—though not universally—grant women, diagnosed with cancer, the choice to safeguard their fertility through egg or embryo cryopreservation prior to cancer therapy, while men are afforded the chance to preserve sperm.

Types Cryopreservation?

Oocyte Cryopreservation or Egg Freezing

Egg cryopreservation is a process involving the freezing of mature eggs (oocytes) before fertilization takes place. These preserved eggs can be thawed at a later time and fertilized using sperm from your partner or a donor as part of an IVF procedure, at a timing that aligns with your future plans. Assuming successful fertilization occurs, the resultant embryo is subsequently introduced into the uterus as part of the IVF cycle.

The majority of women experience a gradual decline in fertility as time passes, which becomes notably pronounced by their late 30s and early 40s. Egg freezing serves as a means of preserving fertility.

On occasions when IVF is employed to achieve pregnancy, utilizing oocyte cryopreservation, you have the option to store any surplus harvested eggs for later purposes, such as when you intend to expand your family further. Alternatively, you can decide to contribute the frozen eggs to assist other women experiencing difficulties in conception. Furthermore, oocyte cryopreservation offers a means for women undergoing medical treatments like cancer therapy, which could potentially impede their egg production, to safeguard their eggs for the future.

Are You the Ideal Candidate for Egg Preservation?

You also need to know that not all women can opt for cryopreservation. This treatment is suitable for:

  1. Women facing certain medical conditions necessitating fertility preservation before their treatment, such as young individuals diagnosed with cancer.
  2. Women at risk of experiencing early menopause due to genetic conditions like Turner Mosaic or Fragile X syndrome, which can lead to Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) or Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).
  3. In situations where the husband is unavailable to provide a semen sample on the day of oocyte retrieval for IVF treatment.
  4. Couples desiring to capitalize on Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) benefits, but hindered due to the husband’s current viral infection, such as Hepatitis.
  5. For religious or personal reasons, some women opt for egg freezing instead of embryo freezing when undergoing IVF.
  6. You are not currently looking to have a baby, but concerns about your age have prompted you to consider preserving your fertility for the future.
  7. You might desire additional time to focus on your career before embarking on parenthood.

Procedure of the Egg Cryopreservation

Oocyte preservation has the following steps.

  • Ovarian Stimulation – You’ll take special medicines to help your ovaries make many eggs.
  • Collecting Eggs – This is done at the hospital while you’re relaxed. A small ultrasound tool is put into the vagina to find the egg sacs. Then, a thin needle is used to take out the eggs from the sacs. Normally, about 15 eggs are taken out each time. You might feel a bit uncomfortable and have some cramps after this.
  • Preserving /Freezing Eggs – The eggs that were collected are now carefully cooled to a very cold temperature to keep them safe for later. The most common way of freezing them is called vitrification, where they’re frozen quickly. Special substances are used to stop ice crystals from forming during this cooling. There’s another way to freeze eggs slowly, but vitrification is better. It lowers the chances of harm to the eggs, which makes more eggs stay alive when they’re frozen and thawed later on.

After eggs are frozen, their quality doesn’t get worse. But there are rules from HFEA that say eggs can’t be stored forever. They can be kept for up to 10 years. Sometimes, this time can be made longer in certain situations. It can be extended by 10 years each time, up to a maximum of 55 years in total.

Freezing Sperm

Sperm freezing, also known as sperm cryopreservation, is a way to save sperm for later use. We combine the sperm with special protective substances and keep the samples at very cold temperatures (-196°C). This stops their “biological clock” and lets the samples stay alive for a really long time.

Are you the Ideal Candidate for Sperm Freezing

Sperm freezing offers a solution for men who are on the verge of undergoing treatments that carry the potential to induce infertility, such as cancer therapy, prostate or testicular surgery. Opting for sperm freezing becomes a viable choice for those who face the likelihood of being exposed to chemicals or radiation. Furthermore, this technique is integral to the practice of sperm banking.

Sperm cryopreservation is applicable in the following scenarios:

  • Prior to undergoing a vasectomy procedure.
  • Before undergoing chemotherapy for medical conditions such as cancer.
  • As a precautionary measure for potential future treatments like IUI Treatment/IVF.
  • Particularly relevant for athletes at a higher risk of experiencing groin injuries.

Sperm Freezing Procedure

A sterile dish within a laboratory is used to gather the semen sample. This sample is then examined for its volume, viscosity, sperm motility, sperm count, and various other factors. To avert the formation of ice crystals during freezing, cryoprotectants are introduced.

Cryopreservation can be accomplished through two techniques:

  • Gradual freezing: This approach involves gradually cooling the sperm over a span of two to four hours. Subsequently, the specimen is introduced into liquid nitrogen at a temperature of minus 196 degrees Celsius.
  • Flash freezing: In this method, sterile samples are swiftly submerged in liquid nitrogen within a period of eight to ten minutes. The sperm’s high membrane fluidity and lower water content contribute to its reduced vulnerability during the cryopreservation process./li>

Embryo Cryopreservation

Embryo cryopreservation, also known as embryo freezing, is basically the freezing and storage of surplus embryos for potential later use. This procedure is frequently integrated into in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs. Freezing embryos not only facilitates the preservation of future fertility but also serves as an avenue for individuals who wish to maintain the possibility of childbirth in the years ahead. Whether you are currently not prepared for parenthood but desire to retain future options or are exploring IVF or recovering from an unsuccessful IVF cycle, cryopreservation can play a significant role in addressing infertility challenges.

Candidate for Embryo Cryopreservation

  • Preserving fertility for:1. Social/Elective freezing 2. Cancer patients
  • As part of IVF treatment to improve the results.
  • To prevent OHSS

There are specific factors that need your attention. In order to make sure about your cryopreservation your physician might advise undergoing a fertility test initially. This test aims to evaluate your fertility factors and guide the decision regarding the appropriateness of cryopreservation for you.

Embryo Cryopreservation Procedure

The process begins by administering medication to the woman, prompting the release of multiple eggs. After retrieval, these eggs are permitted to undergo fertilization with the partner’s sperm. Fertilized eggs or embryos are then subjected to freezing on the third to fifth day post-fertilization. In the gradual freezing approach, embryos are frozen slowly over a span of two to four hours. In contrast, rapid freezing involves the immediate placement of embryos into subzero temperatures within liquid nitrogen. The embryos are preserved at extremely low temperatures (-196°C) utilizing either liquid nitrogen or its vapor.

Risks Factors: Cryopreservation

Cryopreservation techniques are safe. A multitude of research studies have consistently indicated that the cryopreservation of sperm, eggs, or embryos is not linked to any harmful consequences. Children born from cryopreserved embryos or oocytes do not show a heightened susceptibility to congenital disabilities or birth defects.



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