Egg or embryo freezing: Fertility preservation information

The Agora Clinic is a fertility centre. One of the treatment options we offer is fertility preservation for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. This includes egg and embryo freezing.

You have been given this leaflet because you are soon to undergo cancer treatment which may affect your fertility. This leaflet explains what fertility preservation is, why you may need it and how to proceed. Hopefully you will find all the information you need here and on our website Fertility preservation before cancer treatment.

We want to provide you with the guidance and support you need to help you make the best decisions about your future parenting options. We understand how overwhelming this time is for you, so we are here to make your journey as easy as possible. If you have any further questions or concerns, please call us on 01273 229410 where our staff can help you.

Why is it important to discuss fertility before starting cancer treatment?

To be told that you have cancer and that the treatment for it may affect your fertility and could make you permanently infertile, can be very difficult. For some people, the threat of losing their fertility can be as difficult to accept as the cancer diagnosis. For others, beating the cancer is their main priority. Each person will feel differently so there is no right or wrong way to feel and react. We believe it is vitally important that at this stage you are fully informed about your options for fertility preservation so you can make the decision that is best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask us questions as that is why we are here. Everyone has their own way of coping with difficult situations and some people also find it helpful to discuss how they are feeling with their partner, a close friend, or relative. It is also possible to discuss how you are feeling with one of our specialist fertility counsellors who works with the Agora.

How can I preserve my fertility?

Eggs or embryos (eggs that have been fertilised with sperm) may be stored at the Agora Clinic as a backup for fertility treatment in the future if you need to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery that could make you infertile. It is important that samples are frozen before you start any of these treatments if you are advised that is a risk that your eggs or egg reserve may be affected by the treatment.

The NHS will fund fertility preservation and the storage of your eggs or embryos if you fulfil the eligibility criteria for funding. Otherwise you can have this treatment privately.

How can cancer treatment affect fertility?

Treatments for cancer such as surgery to the pelvic area (including the testicles and prostrate), chemotherapy and radiotherapy can all affect a sperm health in different ways. Some cancer treatments can:

  • Damage to or removal of the ovaries which will reduce or stop the production of eggs (temporarily or permanently) leading to low ovarian reserve
  • Reduce the production of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which can influence your sex drive and energy and lead to menopausal symptoms
  • Damage to or removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes or cervix (neck of the womb), reducing the ability to carry a pregnancy in the future (which may lead to you needing surrogacy).

It can be difficult to predict whether your fertility will be affected by cancer treatment or whether it will return to normal once the treatment has finished. Although some treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy may reduce your ability to produce eggs for a time, it may still be possible to produce healthy eggs once treatment has ended. The chances of fertility returning to normal decreases in women as they get older, particularly if chemotherapy is started over the age of 35. This is why storing eggs or embryos can be a sensible back-up plan to preserve your fertility if you think you would like to have a child in the future.

Women with a partner who are concerned that they may become infertile are advised to discuss storing embryos (fertilised eggs) for future use. This requires an IVF approach where hormone injections are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs than normal over a 2 week period. The eggs are then collected and fertilised using sperm from a partner (or donor). Embryos are then formed and can be stored safely and successfully for many years. For women without a partner egg freezing is the best option. Once the eggs are collected, they are frozen straight away (before being fertilised).

Egg or Embryo Freezing

At the Agora, we offer both egg and embryo freezing. It is an important consideration to decide which would be better for you. Women who wish to use their partner’s sperm to create embryos must have had a careful discussion with their partner as it is possible in the future for a man to withdraw his consent for use of embryos using his sperm. It is therefore vital that both partners understand the personal and legal implications of freezing embryos.

It is also possible for single women to freeze embryos using donor sperm. This is a matter which should be discussed carefully when you have your doctor’s consultation. In recent years, rapid-freeze techniques called vitrification have made the process of egg freezing and thawing far more successful and this is now a viable option for women who are single or who want to keep their options open even if they are with a partner at the time of their cancer diagnosis. When you are ready to conceive after treatment, the eggs can be thawed and fertilised with either sperm for your partner or using a sperm donor and the fertilised egg or embryo can be transferred into your womb.

If you want to talk to someone about preserving your fertility, your cancer (oncology) team will refer you to the Agora. This should happen quickly so that any delay to your cancer treatment is minimised. We ensure that all cancer patients are fast-tracked and seen within 24-48 hours of referral.

Treatment timeline

Here are the steps in the egg and embryo freezing treatment to help you to understand the process and what to expect at each appointment.

Oncology Referral

  • Your oncologist will refer you to the Agora.

Screening blood tests

  • Your oncologist will arrange for you to have screening blood tests for HIV, Hepatitis B core antibody and surface antigen and Hepatitis C.

Appointment booked

  • You will receive a call from the Agora to arrange your first appointment within 24 hours of us receiving the referral (72 hours if referred on a Friday).

Medical Consultation

  • You will have a Consultation with one of our doctors who will go through your medical history and discuss your options and explain the process of IVF and collecting eggs
  • You will also have a transvaginal pelvic ultrsound scan and blood test to measure your ovarian reserve
  • If you attend with a partenr he will have a semen analysis
  • You can attend with a freind or partner

Nurse Consultation

  • You will meet a member of the nursing team.
  • They will plan your …………..
  • You will complete the HFEA consent forms using our online consent platform before freezing your eggs or embryo and discuss the process of freezing, storage and the requirements by you and your next of kin.

IVF treatment and egg collection

  • You will take daily hormone injecitons for about 2 weeks
  • You will attend for an ultrasound and blood test about 4 times over that 2 week period
  • You will have your egg collection at the end of this
  • If you are freezing embryos your partner will need to prodcue a sperm sample on the day of egg collection
  • If you are using donor sperm, this will be thawed and mixed with your eggs on the day of egg colleciton

Fertility counselling

  • If you need a bit more time to think about whether to go ahead, or you would like to talk to someone about fertility preservation, we offer counselling with a counsellor specially trained in fertility.
  • The doctor will give you their contact details if you would like to arrange an appointment. This is optional.

Useful Links (website links)

Fertility Preservation

Counsellors

Useful Organisations:

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