The preservation process consists of cryopreserving genetic materials for use at a later time.
During the process, the ovaries are stimulated with medication to mature multiple eggs, similar to the beginning stages of an IVF cycle. Before the eggs can be released, they are retrieved using a procedure known as ultrasound-guided transvaginal aspiration. During this procedure, an ultrasound probe helps the physician visualize the ovaries and surrounding structures, and gentle suction removes the egg and fluid from each follicle. In the laboratory, each is an egg is prepared for freezing then placed on a labeled cryodevice. After the eggs are frozen, they are stored in a cryostorage tank submerged under liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius. The frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely until the woman is ready to start a family.
After eggs are thawed, ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) must be performed to achieve fertilization. During ICSI a single sperm is injected directly into an egg, creating an embryo. Embryos are cultured in an incubator for several days to allow them to grow. One embryo then can be transferred into the uterus to attempt pregnancy while the extra embryos can be frozen for future use. Alternatively, all of the embryos can be frozen for future pregnancy attempts.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a simple, less expensive alternative to IVF and ICSI. Frozen sperm can be used for IUI if sperm parameters are good and multiple samples are obtained. IUI is the process whereby a thawed and prepared semen specimen is placed into a woman’s uterus around the time of ovulation.
Sperm can be gathered by testicular sperm extraction or epididymal aspiration. This is an outpatient surgical procedure performed by a urologist that may allow for the isolation of sperm in the testes or epididymis even if there are no sperm in the ejaculate.
As with egg freezing, the ovaries are first stimulated by fertility medications to mature multiple eggs. Then, eggs are collected via TVOR (transvaginal oocyte retrieval) and are passed to the lab to be fertilized with sperm from a partner or donor to create embryos. The embryos are then frozen for future use and can be thawed and transferred to the uterus at a later time.
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