Freezing oocytes is an ongoing project at LifeQuest. Since the first live birth of a baby from our method in 2004, we are continuing with this study on a case-by-case basis. Our method is a modification of the ‘slow freezing’ method used by Italian researchers in 2002 (Fabri et al). This process will eventually allow fertility preservation, and the possibility of banking donated oocytes in the same way sperm banks are available to patients.
IVF embryos are cryopreserved safely when embryos are left over from an IVF cycle. Patients may use these embryos on a subsequent frozen embryo transfer cycle. Extra sperm may also be frozen and used in subsequent cycle in situations where sperm is difficult to retrieve, such epididymal and testicular aspiration cycles. Sperm can also be safely stored in situations where the patient may not produce a specimen due to stress or if the patient requires chemotherapy and wishes to preserve his fertility. Eggs on the other hand are more difficult to freeze and thaw safely. The egg is in a “waiting phase” of its cell cycle and the freezing and thawing process damages the very structure that holds the chromosome, making the egg unviable or less viable to fertilization and development.
Recently (in the last three to five years) some advances have been made in the field of oocyte freezing that have improved the technique for use in the clinic on a limited case-by-case basis. Freezing allows a patient to preserve her fertility in situations where she has to undergo cancer treatment for certain types of cancers. Egg freezing would also allow patients to delay their reproduction until later in life if they wish. In addition, oocyte banks would make it possible for an egg donor to donate her eggs to infertile couples, in the same way sperm banks are available to patients needing this service. Emergency situations, such as during an ICSI cycle where sperm cannot be retrieved for that cycle is one example where egg freezing can and has been used effectively.
In Dec 2003 our clinic ran into this problem, and we had to freeze the eggs under parent consent so that we could use them later. We used a method we had been researching for a while. This method was our own modification of a method used by a group in Italy. The patient came back after a few months, sperm was retrieved, and the thawed eggs were injected with the husband’s sperm. Nine months later a healthy baby was born to a LifeQuest couple. This was the first baby born in Canada from this slow freezing technique. The first vitrification (fast freeze) pregnancy was achieved by another group at McGill University. The difference between these two methods has not yet been determined in large numbers. The slow freezing method is similar to the method used for freezing embryos, therefore the comfort level is higher.
After some further research and modification, we now offer this technique to those who need it on a case-by-case basis. The LifeQuest medical team and your physician will review your case and assess your eligibility for this technique.
Click here to read more about Egg Freezing at LifeQuest.
What are the next steps after my first consultation?
You will get a package of information, including a DVD, at the end of your first consultation to help you make an informed decision about whether or not you want to go forward.
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