Footsteps to fertility foundation

Female Fertility Preservation with Footsteps To Fertility Centre

There are many young women whose fertility may be threatened by cancer or other serious diseases and the treatment for these conditions.

For some young women and their families, it may not be suitable to pursue fertility options prior to cancer treatment. Though having the opportunity for discussion about your future fertility may be helpful.

Fertility preservation at Footsteps To Fertility Centre located  in Nairobi, Kenya, aims to protect and preserve fertility for the future using various treatment options. For women, these can range from freezing of eggs, embryos and ovarian tissue, as well as medications which may protect the ovaries from chemotherapy.

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Who would benefit from female fertility preservation?

  • Women who wish to have children at a later date. These women are aware that fertility declines with age and are choosing to undergo IVF treatment sooner, storing their eggs for the future.

  • Women with cancer, as chemotherapy and radiation treatment, can often have a harmful effect on fertility, rendering many of these women menopausal.

  • Women who are at risk of early menopause or who have a genetic disorder that could limit fertility (e.g. Turner syndrome).

  • Individuals/couples who, for religious or ethical reasons, are opposed to freezing embryos that result from IVF treatments and are more comfortable with storing unfertilised eggs instead.

  • Couples who have no sperm retrievable on the day of their egg collection.


What options do women have?

1.Egg Freezing

Egg freezing involves a woman’s mature eggs being developed and removed using standard IVF Treatment techniques. This process typically involves three stages of treatment: pituitary suppression, ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval.

Fertility specialistssee this as a way of preserving the potential for fertility in women whose fertility is at risk due to age or medical treatment and who are not currently in a position to become pregnant.

To obtain eggs for freezing, a woman will usually undergo hormonal stimulation over 10 – 12 days enabling a number of eggs (usually 10 – 15) to mature. The eggs then undergo a freezing procedure called vitrification.

When the woman is ready to use her eggs, they are thawed and then fertilised with sperm using in-vitro fertilisation. Resulting embryos may then be transferred to the woman’s uterus with the hope that a successful pregnancy will occur.

2.Embryo Freezing

If you have a male partner with whom you are planning to have children, you may choose to undergo in vitro fertilisation(IVF) treatment prior to commencing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Any resulting embryos can then be frozen and used for future pregnancy attempts, often years later.

An IVF cycle involves 10 to 14 days of hormone stimulation prior to the woman’s mature eggs being collected in day surgery and fertilised with her partner’s sperm in the laboratory.

In undergoing this option, it’s important for young women to understand that if the embryos are created that if you and your partner subsequently separate, you will require the permission of your ex-partner to use the embryos.

Pregnancy success rates in patients receiving thawed embryo transfers are consistently close to those using fresh embryo transfers.

Babies born as a result of frozen embryo transfer  have better health outcomes by several different measures as compared to babies born as a result of fresh embryo transfer.

Specifically, babies born from frozen embryos:

  • Are less likely to be born prematurely

  • Have higher birth weights

  • Have a lower chance of being small for their gestational age

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3.Ovarian Tissue Freezing

Ovarian tissue freezing refers to freezing a part of or the entire ovary and preparing it into tiny slices and freezing the tissue for the purpose of fertility preservation.

Later, when you are ready to conceive, the ovarian tissue is grafted back into your pelvis. Around nine months later, the grafted ovarian tissue can start to produce reproductive hormones with subsequent follicular development.

Pregnancy using grafted ovarian tissue is achieved  with a modified, low-dose gentle cycle of ovarian stimulation and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Indications for ovarian tissue freezing

The following are some of the potential indications:

  • Patients who are planned to receive chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy
  • Patients undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplantation
  • Patients who are planned to undergo removal of one or both ovaries
  • Patients who will be exposed to chemotherapy for non-cancerous diseases

Ovarian tissue freezing process

Ovarian tissue freezing is conducted by surgical removal of the ovaries followed by removal of the stromal layer of the ovary, leaving the cortical part for freezing.

Next, the ovary is cut into small pieces and frozen in liquid nitrogen. When chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment is completed and the patient is ready for pregnancy, tissue is thawed and transplanted surgically. Hormone levels can be measured and egg development can be monitored to assess if the transplanted ovary resumes its function.

If the tissue is transplanted back into the pelvis, spontaneous pregnancy may be observed.

If the tissue is placed outside of the pelvis, ovaries may be stimulated with hormone treatment and IVF may be attempted to fertilize the egg, create an embryo and transfer into the uterus.

A limited number of pregnancies have been reported with ovarian tissue freezing and the success rate is considered to be very low. A detailed discussion with a fertility specialist is recommended for all individuals at risk for losing their fertility potential.

There are many options available to both men and women including sperm, egg and embryo freezing. Additionally, third party reproduction– which includes using donor sperm, donor eggs and donated embryos– is always an option.

Gestational surrogacy is also an option for women who are unable to carry a pregnancy to term or those exposed to high doses of chemotherapy that damaged their uterus.

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