Last Updated: March 28, 2019

Definition - What does Cryopreservation mean?

Cryopreservation is the freezing of biological matter to preserve it for future use and is utilized as a method of fertility preservation. A woman’s eggs, a man’s sperm, or a fertilized embryo are all capable of being cryopreserved.

This procedure allows for an individual or a couple to protect their biological reproductive material at a time it is healthiest before age or health conditions decrease their quality or quantity. Once the materials are preserved, they may be used in the future in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to achieve a pregnancy.

FertilitySmarts explains Cryopreservation

Men, women or couples may elect to cryopreserve reproductive materials for a variety of reasons:

  • The need for cancer treatment that may damage reproductive abilities
  • Degenerative reproductive system disorders, or the need for sexual organ removal surgery
  • Prioritization of career, educational, or personal goals
  • Health conditions
  • The wish to delay childbearing for any other personal reason
  • Preserving “leftover” embryos from an IVF treatment to use at a later date

Egg freezing:
The woman providing the eggs undergoes a series of ovulation induction medications in order to stimulate hyperovulation. Hyperovulation allows for the production of multiple eggs, as opposed to the single naturally occurring egg. Having multiple eggs increases the chances of future successful treatment. Following the retrieval, the eggs are frozen. Once the woman or couple is ready, the eggs are thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus.

Embryo freezing:
The woman providing the eggs undergoes the same procedure as egg freezing. However, once the eggs have been harvested, they are fertilized in a lab with a sperm sample, provided by the intended male partner or donor. The embryo is allowed to develop in the lab for 3-5 days before being frozen. Once the woman or couple is ready, the embryo is thawed and transferred to the uterus.

Sperm freezing:
A man must provide a sample of fresh semen. The lab then washes the semen in order to separate the sperm from the seminal fluid, tissue, and other matter. Live and normal sperm are then selected and frozen.

Studies show that cryogenically preserved embryos offer the best chance of pregnancy over individual sperm and eggs. However, the age, health, and quality of sample provided by both partners play a large role in determining the outcome. There is currently no evidence that cryopreservation negatively impacts the outcome of the child.

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