For fertility preservation, a different option than egg freezing is having an ovarian tissue transplant. This is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of an ovary so that it can be frozen. Then, when the woman is ready to have children, the tissue is transplanted back.
The technique was developed for cancer patients and for prepubertal girls who are too young to undergo hormone stimulation for egg freezing. Doctors remove the healthy ovarian tissue using laparoscopy. The ovary's outer layer of tissue is cut into tiny strips that are frozen. When the woman wants to become fertile again, several strips of the ovarian tissue are implanted in the abdomen, near the uterus. These strips contain immature follices (groups of cells that grow into eggs), and when they are implanted back into the body they start to produce hormones and eggs like a normal ovary.
Sherman Silber, M.D., medical director of The Infertility Center of St. Louis, performs both ovarian tissue freezing and egg freezing for cancer patients and for those who want to preserve their fertility for other reasons. He says there are benefits to ovarian tissue freezing for both kinds of patients.
"For cancer patients, ovary freezing can be done immediately and not delay chemotherapy by more than a few days," he explains. "To get enough eggs for reasonable confidence of a high likelihood of pregnancy for egg freezing would require three cycles and possibly eight to nine months before she could undergo cancer treatment."
There have been more than 30 babies born worldwide to cancer patients who had ovarian tissue freezing, according to Dr. Silber.
Ovarian tissue freezing may be a solution for non-cancer patients who do not want to take fertility drugs. "A non-cancer patient may prefer having one laparoscopic surgery to multiple cycles of ovarian stimulation with fertiliy drugs for egg freezing," Dr. Silber says. In addition, it may be an option for someone who did not have success with egg freezing cycles.
Other fertility experts say egg freezing is the best choice if you are not a cancer patient and just want to preserve your fertility, citing egg freezing's proven success as the reason. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) declared that egg freezing should no longer be considered "experimental" in October 2012.
If you are interested in ovarian tissue freezing, do your research, Dr. Silber advises. "An interview should tell a woman right away if the fertility doctor has any idea what he or she is talking about," he says.
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January 17, 2012
Posted by Leigh Ann Woodruff