Egg, Sperm & Embryo Storage
Storage For Eggs, Sperm And Embryos- So They’re Ready When You Are
Eggs, sperm and embryos can all be frozen and stored, in case you need them in the future. It is a relatively straightforward procedure that has helped many Australian men and women on their path to a family.
The technical name for the freezing process is cryopreservation, and the storage process is called cryogenic storage. At Flinders Fertility, we have been doing this for more than 30 years.
Why Store Your Eggs, Sperm Or Embryos?
You might choose to use cryogenic storage if:
- Fertility banking is appropriate.
- You’re about to be treated for cancer - This is called onco-fertility. It allows you to undergo treatment without the constant worry of infertility after cancer treatments.
- You’re going through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) - IVF is where a woman’s eggs are taken out and fertilised in the laboratory. One or two fertilised eggs (embryos) are then placed back into her uterus. Any ‘left-over’ embryos that are suitable are frozen and stored for use in future IVF cycles. Sperm can also be stored for IVF, which is very helpful for men who find it difficult to ejaculate on demand or are unavailable on the day of egg collection.
- You’ve had sperm surgically extracted - If you’ve had sperm surgically removed we can store it for future use. See testicular sperm aspiration and microsurgical sperm retrieval for more information.
- You’re about to have a vasectomy - Some couples choose a vasectomy to ensure no accidental pregnancies, but still like to keep their options open for a family in the future.
- You’re about to have testicular or prostate surgery - Unfortunately, some testicular and prostate surgery can cause infertility. Sperm storage ensures you still have the option to have a family afterwards.
- You work in a high-risk job - Some men work in jobs that can compromise their fertility (e.g. high exposure to environmental toxins). Sperm storage is like an insurance policy in these situations.
The Storage Process
At Flinders Fertility, we possess the latest technology for freezing and storing eggs, sperm and embryos. This includes a secure area for our storage tanks. All storage tanks are electronically monitored, 24 hours a day, and qualified personnel monitor liquid nitrogen levels daily. And, of course, a dedicated cryopreservation specialist works with you and your doctor throughout.
The Egg And Embryo Freezing And Storage Process
- You meet with one of our Fertility Specialists to discuss your medical history.
- We do a few simple tests.
- We start treatment by stimulating the development of a number of follicles in the ovaries.
- We monitor your body’s response so we know when your eggs are ready for retrieval.
- We retrieve the eggs.
- If freezing embryos, we fertilise the eggs with a sperm sample collected at the same time (see below).
- We freeze your eggs or embryos using a process called vitrification. Studies show that more eggs or embryos frozen this way survive thawing, because they’re cooled so quickly that there’s no time for ice crystals to form. Instead, they’re instantaneously solidified into a glass-like structure.
- We store your frozen eggs or embryos until they’re needed.
The Sperm Freezing And Storage Process
- You meet with one of our Fertility Specialists to discuss your medical history and family planning goals.
- We do a few simple tests.
- You supply a sperm sample through masturbation, or we collect it through surgery.
- If sperm obtained are suitable for freezing then they are crystored.
- We store your frozen sperm until they’re needed.
If undergoing an IVF process, any 'left-over' sperm can be stored, which is very helpful for men who find it difficult to ejaculate on demand on the day of future egg collections.
How Long Can Eggs, Sperm And Embryos Be Stored?
There are currently no restrictions in respect of storage periods in South Australia, however generally we will store your eggs, sperm and embryos for up to 10 years unless they are used before hand as part of your treatment or discarded.
You can apply to Flinders Fertility to extend the length of storage.
The suitability to store your eggs, sperm and embryos beyond the 10 year mark will be a clinical determination, however, if there is no evidence of deterioration, ongoing storage will depend entirely on you.
Discarding Eggs, Sperm And Embryos
Some people will find it relatively simple to decide what to do with unused or stored eggs, sperm and embryos. Other will find the decision challenging and distressing and would prefer not to have to make the decision at all.
It is a very personal decision that may challenge your ethical or religious views and ideas.
When you started treatment, you may not have thought about unused eggs, sperm and embryos, your views may have changed over time or since having children. In situations where one partner wants to end treatment and the other wants to continue, or when partners have seperated, the decision is likely to be partcularly difficult.
Take your time to think through all the options, including whether you want to try for another child. If you have a young family, it may be difficult to imagine having the energy, time or income to manage another baby. However your thoughts may change as your children grow older.
Once people have arrived at a decision, some feel relieved. Others may be surprised to feel a strong sence of loss as discontinuing storage confirms the reality that you may not have a child or another child. There is no right or wrong way to feel; every response is legitimate.
If you struggle to come to a decision, it may be helpful to return to Flinders Fertility and seek counselling.
Find Out More
At Flinders Fertility we recognise that a website may not cover all your information requirements. That's why we offer a number of information options. So, if you want to find out more about egg, sperm or embryo storage, either:
- Call on 131 IVF (131 483) to talk to our Scientific Director.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Seek a referral to Flinders Fertility from your Doctor.
If you require the aid of an interpreter please let us know, as well as any specific regional dialect that you may require.