Is your future fertility at risk due to a disease or other medical reason? Fertility preservation can help you keep your option open for having children open, and allow you to determine when the time is right.
When you think about fertility preservation for medical reasons, cancer is usually the first thing that comes to mind. The reason is that radiation and especially chemotherapy wreak havoc on the body, including both the male and female reproductive systems. Some treatments damage ovarian reserve and sperm production, making pregnancy virtually impossible.
But beyond cancer, there are other medical reasons for individuals to consider fertility preservation, and here we take a look at all conditions.
Medical Reasons to Consider Fertility Preservation
Some people absolutely know they want to be parents and others want to have the option available. Of course, unforeseen medical procedures, along with the conditions and diseases listed below, have a way of interfering with life plans–including future fertility.
- Cancer: A cancer diagnosis is life-altering enough without certain treatments that may leave you infertile. Uterine cancer, for example, may require removal of a woman’s uterus and ovarian cancer may require a hysterectomy. Chemotherapy to treat breast cancer can damage a woman’s ovaries and cause temporary or even permanent infertility. Cervical cancer may require strong radiation in the area of a woman’s reproductive organs, exposing ovaries and eggs to irreparable damage.
Male fertility takes a direct hit from testicular or other cancers involving the reproductive system, while other types of cancers and their treatment may also impair future fertility. Chemotherapy takes a toll on the entire system and when liver and renal function are involved, hormonal metabolism takes a hit. This may lead to testicular dysfunction, which affects the ability to produce sperm.
If you’re facing cancer treatment of any kind, please discuss your fertility concerns with your oncologist and fertility doctor.
- Sickle Cell and Blood Cancers and Disorders: If you have a blood disorder that requires a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you could become infertile. Both male and female patients should look into ways to preserve their fertility before undergoing either one of these life-saving transplants.
- Females Born Without a Uterus or With a Too-Small Uterus: There are some conditions that cause the absence of a uterus in females at birth, or for females to be born with a malformed or very small uterus. In either case, with normal ovaries that can produce mature eggs, fertility preservation is a good option.
- Reproductive Health Conditions and Disorders: Females diagnosed with severe endometriosis may require surgery that could affect future fertility. Uterine fibroids are another condition that may render women infertile after treatment.
- Autoimmune Disorders: Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, some thyroid conditions and Type 1 diabetes can cause diminished ovarian reserve and premature menopause in some patients. Because the risk only becomes greater as you age, it’s wise to discuss preserving your fertility now if you know you want to have a child someday.
- Gender-Affirming Surgery: For those born female but who wish to transition, preserving your fertility leaves the door open to one day have your own biological child. This also applies to those born male who wish to transition to female. Before beginning treatment, you can preserve your fertility by freezing your embryos, eggs or sperm for those transitioning from male to female. When you do decide to become a parent, there are many ways in which you can make this happen. Each case is unique and you and your doctor will discuss your options when the time is right.
- Diabetes: For men, diabetes and specifically neuropathy, a common associated condition, poses a threat to fertility as the condition progresses and causes nerve damage. It’s not uncommon for neuropathy to impact the neck of the bladder causing what’s called retrograde ejaculation when sperm goes backwards into the bladder. Freezing sperm in the early stages of diabetes, before neuropathy becomes a significant side effect, helps ensure the ability to have a biological child in the future.
Ways to Preserve Your Fertility
Your options depend on your individual and unique circumstances, but here is a breakdown of the more successful options for fertility preservation for medical reasons.
- Egg Freezing (Oocyte Cryopreservation): Your healthy eggs are preserved via flash-freezing and stored in liquid nitrogen. When you choose to freeze your eggs, medication stimulates your ovaries to produce many eggs at one time. Your doctor monitors development, schedules the egg retrieval and, under light sedation, uses a catheter to draw out as many eggs as possible which are then flash frozen and stored. You may experience mild discomfort and light spotting for the next few days.
- Embryo Freezing: Whether you’re in a committed relationship or want to pursue single parenthood, freezing your embryos for medical reasons is an excellent option. Using the same egg retrieval process, the eggs are fertilized with your partner’s or a donor’s sperm. The lab observes the development of your embryos for about five days, and may perform preimplantation testing at your request. The embryos are flash frozen and safely stored for future implantation.
- Sperm Freezing: For males who wish to explore fertility preservation for medical reasons, sperm freezing is your best option with very good fertilization rates.
Let HALO Help With Your Fertility Preservation
Do you have a medical reason to consider fertility preservation? Let HALO help. We’ll discuss a plan to ensure your fertility is protected and preserved until the time is right. Please contact our fertility professionals today.