Egg and sperm freezing
Elective egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is an option chosen by women looking to preserve their current fertility level while delaying motherhood for a variety of reasons, including career, education, lifestyle and relationship status. Egg freezing is a proactive treatment that secures a reserve of eggs, effectively ‘putting them on ice’, where they can be stored for years and accessed at any point in the future to be thawed, fertilised and implanted to achieve pregnancy.
Sperm banking, or semen cryopreservation, is the process of freezing sperm for future use. Men may choose to freeze sperm for medical reasons, to preserve their fertility prior to undergoing cancer treatment or other procedures that might compromise their fertility.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing steps
Prior to starting, an initial consultation with one of our physicians must take place. During the consultation our physicians will discuss your family-building goals, assess basic fertility parameters and review your medical history. You will then prepare for the egg freezing process with the help of our clinical team, by learning about ovarian stimulation, how to administer medications and the egg retrieval/freezing process. You will also complete some basic testing to assess general health prior to treatment.
Fertility medications are prescribed and self-administered daily to stimulate the ovaries and mature numerous eggs at once. Most often, having a greater number of eggs improves the chances of fertilisation and, ultimately, a future pregnancy. While administering your medications, you will come into the office approximately every other day for a short monitoring appointment to assess your progress. Medication adjustments are then made, based on the results of your monitoring visits, in an effort to highly personalise your treatment to your own individual medication response.
When multiple eggs have matured and are ready, one of our physicians will perform an egg retrieval. This procedure takes approximately 40 minutes and is done under general anaesthesia. Using ultrasound, your physician guides a needle through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries, to gently draw the eggs from their follicles into sterile test tubes. The egg retrieval procedure takes place right at our facility and is performed under sedation. Recovery of approximately one hour takes place in our recovery room.
After the eggs are retrieved, they are transferred to the embryology laboratory. The retrieved eggs are evaluated, and those considered mature are frozen. We provide safe, secure storage. However, for long-term storage needs, frozen eggs/sperm/embryos are stored at Androcryos in Johannesburg.
All necessary consent forms are signed at the fertility expert gynaecologist’s rooms.
When should I freeze my eggs?
Women are at their most fertile in their early to mid-20s, after which a steady natural decline in both egg quality and quantity begins and negatively affects the ability to become pregnant.
Younger eggs therefore offer a better chance of achieving a healthy pregnancy, which conflicts with the fact that it is very common for women to delay childbearing for a multitude of reasons. Fortunately, advances in egg freezing technology have made it possible to safely and successfully retrieve and freeze unfertilised eggs, to be used whenever a woman is ready to start a family.
Oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) can be a valuable opportunity for many women, including those who:
- Are building a career
- Have lifestyle considerations
- Have religious objections to freezing embryos
- Have not yet met the right partner
- Have medical considerations
Preserve your fertility
At Surgiclinic Fertility, our goal is to provide you with options that help you to realise your dream of a future family.
We offer you the opportunity to stop your biological clock by retrieving, freezing and storing your eggs during your fertile years so that those healthy eggs will be available to create your family when you are ready. This reduces concerns of an age-related decline in fertility.
Though years may go by, the eggs remain the same age they were when they were retrieved, greatly improving your chance of conception in the future.
Our use of innovative cryopreservation techniques has resulted in both a high survival rate when thawing cryopreserved eggs and healthy babies born following fertilisation and transfer.
What is sperm freezing?
Sperm banking involves freezing a patient’s sperm for later use in either insemination or in vitro fertilization, or simply to preserve male fertility. A male may choose to store his sperm because of a particular medical condition or simply to have the option to start a family any time in the future.
A sample of semen is obtained via masturbation or collection in a specialized collection device. It is then analyzed by a licensed andrology lab, and cryopreserved (frozen) using specialized media and solutions. The vials are frozen and then immersed in liquid nitrogen and stored in cryogenic tanks at a temperature of -196°C (-321°F). The liquid nitrogen is independent of any source of power. Cryogenic tanks are checked daily and replenished as needed.
Viable sperm are frozen and stored on-site for patients in treatments cycles, otherwise it is long-term stored at AndroCryos in Johannesburg.
The male 'biological clock'
Men are not immune to the effects of reproductive aging. As men age, sperm quality decreases, which can lengthen the amount of time it takes for their female partner to become pregnant. This can also increase the risk of miscarriage and health problems in offspring.
Men may freeze sperm to proactively preserve their current fertility levels, which can make it easier for their partner to conceive in future and lead to healthier offspring.
Common reasons for sperm banking
- Persevering sperm prior to sterilisation or genetic damage that may result from cancer treatments (oncofertility)
- For back-up, should a male partner be unable to collect or be out of town on the day sperm are needed
- Prior to a vasectomy
Explore more fertility treatments
Artificial Insemination (AI/IUI)
Artificial insemination brings healthier sperm closer to the egg by placing washed sperm directly inside the uterus.
Embryo freezing is when excess embryos are frozen and then stored at the laboratory for a later transfer during the natural cycle.