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?

Our state-of-the-art laboratory utilizes the latest advanced cryopreservation technology, called vitrification, which has revolutionised the ability to freeze and successfully thaw frozen eggs. Vitrification is an extremely successful technology and has resulted in the survival of well over 80-90% of eggs frozen and consistently achieves high embryo survival rates. Egg freezing provides women with the revolutionary advantage of delaying their childbearing years and overcoming the limitations of the “biological clock.”

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.

Invitro Fertilisation (IVF/ICSI)

A technique to fertilise an egg with sperm outside the body, followed by transferring the embryo into the uterus.

Embryo Freezing

Embryo freezing is when excess embryos are frozen and then stored at the laboratory for a later transfer during the natural cycle.

Fertility Cost

Every journey begins with a first step.

Take the first step towards your future. Speak with a specialist or schedule a consultation today.

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Your IVF Fertility Journey

Scheduling a fertility consultation with one of our fertility expert gynecologists:

  • Dr Richard Joubert 013 7457605
  • Dr Pieter Steyn 013 7552106
  • Dr Wilhelm Combrink 013 7457988
  • Dr Jean Nel 013 7458054

*Your fertility journey timescale might differ from the one described here.

  • 1

    The fertility specialist will do all necessary tests and evaluations on you as a couple in order to make a fertility treatment diagnosis.

  • 2

    To start the treatment program you will call the fertility specialists rooms on the first day of your next menstruation.

  • 3

    You will see the fertility specialist on day 2 or day 3 of your cycle for a sonar examination to determine the state of the ovaries and uterus before you start taking the medication. The specialist will explain how the stimulation drugs are used henceforth on your own or with the help of your partner.

  • 4

    Your next appointment will be on day 8 or 9 of your cycle. The Doctor will again do a sonar to see how your ovaries have responded to the stimulation and he will start monitoring them in terms of count as well as diameter. You will also be sent for blood tests to correlate the hormonal value increase with the number of developing follicles on the ovaries.

  • 5

    Once the biggest follicle measures more than 20mm in diameter, the doctor will determine the day of aspirating the mature eggs and a trigger drug will be administered to mature the eggs.

  • 6

    In the meantime, you will be referred to Surgiclinic Fertility to open your file and hospital admission. Your eggs will be harvested 36 hours after taking the trigger drug. This is usually scheduled for 9pm at night so we can do the harvest around 8am 36 hours later. You need to be fasting from the previous night and report to Surgiclinic Private Hospital at 7am sharp to be ready for the aspiration procedure scheduled for 8am

  • 7

    The anesthetist will give you conscious sedation to not feel any pain or discomfort while the oocytes are harvested. This process is the same as when the doctor monitored your follicles in the rooms with the only difference that the aspiration needle is now attached to the sonar probe.

  • 8

    In the meantime, your partner needs to be available on the day of aspiration to give a very much needed sperm sample. He is usually expected to have 3 to 5 days of sexual abstinence to give a good sample by means of masturbation. There is a special private facility close to the IVF lab where he will find all that is needed to do his very important part in this procedure.

  • 9

    Once all the follicles are aspirated the doctor will put a small armband around your wrist with the exact number of eggs retrieved written on it. You will be served some tea and toast once you wake up.

  • 10

    You should be ready to go home at around 10am. Try to rest at home and do not plan any other activities as you might not feel up to it. There might be some lower abdominal discomfort as well as bleeding.

  • 11

    The embryologist will continue the preparation of both eggs and sperm sample to be able to do the fertilisation on the very same day the aspiration has taken place.

  • 12

    Each morning the embryologist will evaluate the development of the eggs starting with fertilisation to embryo development. You will receive a Whatsapp picture every day to explain what they look like at that time.

  • 13

    The fertility specialist will decide when the embryo transfer will be, either day 3 or day 5 of development.

  • 14

    You and your partner will be expected to report to Surgiclinic Fertility an hour prior to embryo transfer.

  • 15

    Your partner will sit next to you while the embryos are transferred by sonar guidance. The Doctor will give you a note to do a pregnancy test, usually 14 days after the oocyte harvest took place. This is a blood test and all values above 25 are considered positive and repeated within 48 hours to ensure an ongoing value.

  • 16

    When your test is positive, we will contact you for an appointment for the first scans at 7 weeks into your pregnancy. Celebrate and rest a lot.