Chemotherapy has the potential to cause infertility or early menopause, which means that many women who need to go through chemotherapy are unable to get pregnant naturally afterwards. Because of this, some women choose to improve their chances of having children by freezing their eggs beforehand. Below, we will take a look at why freezing your eggs before chemotherapy can be so beneficial, as well as how the procedure works.
How Chemotherapy Affects Fertility
Chemotherapy can kill cancerous cells, but it can also have devastating effects on healthy parts of the body, leading to long-term changes in some cases. Although some people who go through chemotherapy do not experience infertility, in many cases the treatment induces early menopause or damages the egg reserves. This is especially likely with certain chemotherapy agents, as well as radiation therapies sometimes used for cancer. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get pregnant after chemotherapy.
How Freezing Your Eggs Before Chemotherapy Can Help
Freezing your eggs can boost your chances of being able to get pregnant after chemotherapy. The eggs are frozen until you are ready to use them in an IVF cycle, at which point they are fertilized and the resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus. As with getting pregnant naturally, there is no guarantee that a particular patient will be able to get pregnant with frozen eggs, but the procedure does increase the chances for women about to go through chemotherapy.
Although freezing your eggs before chemotherapy can be beneficial, and is much more effective now than in the past, the success of egg cryopreservation depends to a large extent on the number and quality of eggs a woman has before she starts chemotherapy.
How Egg Cryopreservation Works
Depending on the circumstances, the doctor may either retrieve stimulated, mature egg follicles, or immature egg follicles. Here are the basics of each procedure:
- Mature egg retrieval – The woman receives a course of fertility medications that stimulate her ovaries to produce more eggs than usual. Once the eggs are mature, they are collected from the ovaries in a minimally invasive procedure. This requires the woman to have enough time to go through the stimulation before starting chemotherapy.
- Immature egg retrieval – If the woman needs to start treatment immediately immature egg follicles can be collected. When the woman is ready to get pregnant, the egg follicles can be matured through in vitro maturation (IVM) before they are fertilized. Retrieving mature eggs is usually more effective, but IVF procedures have improved dramatically in recent years.
Who is a Candidate?
To be a good candidate for mature egg retrieval, you need to have enough egg reserves that your ovaries can be stimulated to produce mature egg follicles during the cycle. This is the best choice, because it has the highest success rate.
If the woman is not a good candidate for injectable fertility medications, or if it is necessary that cancer treatment begin immediately, immature egg removal may be performed. To be a candidate for immature egg removal, the woman must have a very good egg reserve; usually, only younger women qualify for this procedure.
Only a doctor can determine whether or not you are a good candidate for egg cryopreservation. If you are interested in freezing your eggs before chemotherapy, Dr. Randy Morris would be happy to hear from you. To schedule your consultation today, please click below and enter your information or call IVF1 at (630) 357-6540.