Building A Family Through Fertility Preservation

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Planning for a Future Family

Fertility preservation involves freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos for use in the future to have a biological child.  There are several reasons why a person or a couple might choose to do this.

In every case, however, IUI (for sperm) or IVF (for eggs or embryos) are required in order to have a child in the future.  Let’s look at the processes and how they may affect someone.

Who Uses Fertility Preservation

Anyone who is not ready to have a child at present but wants to have a biological child in the future is a candidate for fertility preservation.  The age of a woman’s eggs has a direct impact on her ability to get pregnant, so growing numbers of women are freezing their eggs at a younger age for use in years to come.  Research has found that their main reason for freezing eggs, or oocyte cryopreservation, is that they haven’t found a partner they want to build a family with.  Although a man’s sperm does not age as rapidly as a woman’s eggs, recent studies have found the sperm of older men is more likely to be associated with miscarriage, birth defects, and autism.  Some physicians have begun to suggest that if men plan to delay fatherhood to age 45 or older, they should freeze sperm by age 35.

Cancer treatment in both women and men is often a reason for fertility preservation.  Radiation and many forms of chemotherapy can cause infertility, as can surgery which affects the reproductive organs.  Military personnel who are being deployed may consider egg or sperm freezing to protect their future families from exposure to chemical agents or other dangers.  Transgender people who are transitioning with hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery may choose to freeze sperm or eggs to preserve the ability to have a biological child.  Women whose families have a history of early menopause may freeze their eggs at a young age. Men with cystic fibrosis usually produce sperm, but are infertile due to absence of the vas deferens.  They can still have children if their sperm is extracted and used or frozen for later use.  Heterosexual couples who want to delay childbearing may pursue IVF to produce frozen embryos which can be implanted years later for pregnancy.

What to Expect

Women and transgender men who choose egg freezing essentially go through the first stages of IVF.  Their ovaries are stimulated with medications to produce multiple eggs, which are then extracted and frozen rapidly, a process called vitrification.  On average, egg freezing costs $15,000 – $20,000 per cycle plus the cost of storage.  More than one cycle may be needed to get a sufficient number of eggs to be used in IVF in the future.  Men and transgender women who want to freeze their sperm make a semen deposit through a home kit like Dadi or at a fertility center or sperm bank.  The sperm is then tested and frozen if it is viable.   The home kits range in cost from $199 to $599 and include a year of storage.  The cost of sperm collection and freezing at a sperm bank averages less than $1,000, and storage costs an additional $150 – $300 per year.  Using the sperm in IUI costs $300 to $1,000.  Transgender persons generally must stop hormone therapy for a period of time before egg or sperm freezing.

Heterosexual couples who want to produce embryos go through all the stages of IVF except embryo transfer and implantation.  The woman’s ovaries are stimulated with medications to produce eggs, which are extracted and mixed with the man’s donated sperm in the IVF lab.  Any resulting embryos are then frozen and stored for future use.  The costs are similar to those of IVF, about $12,000 – $17,000 per cycle plus the cost of medications, which add $8,000 – $10,000.  But IVF using the frozen embryos is less expensive, about $3,000 – $5,000 per cycle.

Emotional Aspects of Fertility Preservation

Knowing there is a need for IUI (for frozen sperm) or IVF (for frozen eggs, sperm, or embryos) can be daunting.  IVF is cost-prohibitive for many people since insurance does not cover it in most states. Egg freezing is not something women undertake lightly.  People undergoing cancer treatment, women facing early menopause, military personnel who are deploying, and transgender people who are transitioning may find contemplating their fertility especially difficult and painful because they have other stressful issues.  However, some people find comfort in knowing they have planned ahead for a future family.

Why Fertility Preservation Benefits Matter

A number of companies have begun offering family-building benefits to employees, from coverage of IVF and surrogacy to help with adoption fees and parental leave.  Offering inclusive family-building benefits with adoption & surrogacy can show your company’s support for all employees.  A managed benefit such as WINFertility helps support employees with education and guidance in their family-building journey, and in turn can be a powerful tool in attracting and retaining top talent.