Fertility preservation protects your reproductive tissues so you can have a child in the future. People choose this treatment due to cancer and other health conditions, age and transgender care. Many people have healthy babies after fertility preservation treatment.
Fertility preservation saves and protects your embryos, eggs, sperm and reproductive tissues. This helps make it possible for you to have a child sometime in the future. It’s an option for adults and even some children of both sexes. Fertility preservation is common in people whose fertility is compromised due to health conditions or diseases (medically-indicated preservation) or when someone wishes to delay having children for personal reasons (elective preservation). Personal reasons you may want to delay childbirth could involve finding the right partner/spouse or wanting to wait until you’re more established in your career.
Your future fertility may be at risk if you have certain diseases and conditions. This could be due to the condition itself or to the surgery or medication used to treat the condition. People who wish to delay having children until their late 30s or 40s may choose to preserve their fertility because studies show aging affects fertility.
You may want to preserve your fertility if you wish to have children and are affected by any of the following:
Your healthcare provider and a fertility specialist will guide you through the process.
You may receive treatment at a fertility clinic. These facilities usually have treatment areas, a laboratory and equipment needed to maintain frozen specimens for extended periods of time.
Fertility preservation treatments fall into two categories:
Childhood cancer and other conditions can also affect children’s future fertility. Ovarian and testicular tissue freezing are options for children, with sperm, egg, and embryo freezing available after they reach puberty. Younger children may benefit from radiation shielding and ovarian transposition.
Fertility preservation procedures vary widely. As you consider your options, it’s helpful to know what to expect with each procedure.
This process starts with ovarian stimulation. You’ll inject yourself with hormones daily for about 10 days.
Egg removal is performed while you’re under sedation — a type of anesthesia where you are lightly asleep. Your provider:
You shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure, but some women feel bloating or discomfort during the days leading up to the procedure and for several days after it.
You’ll receive a general anesthetic to put you to sleep. During this minimally invasive procedure (laparoscopy), your surgeon:
Usually, you can go home about two hours after laparoscopic surgery with specific instructions for follow-up care.
This is also a laparoscopic procedure performed under general anesthesia.
If your fallopian tubes aren’t damaged by surgery or radiation treatment, your ovaries may release eggs in their new location, allowing you to become pregnant naturally. Whether the surgeon is able to move your ovaries without damaging the fallopian tubes depends on your condition, the radiation field planned, and your anatomy. If both of your fallopian tubes are damaged, you may require in vitro fertilization (IVF) to become pregnant.
Your provider will try to protect your ovaries or testicles from radiation by using:
This is a noninvasive procedure where you masturbate and ejaculate semen into a cup. You give the cup to your provider for freezing and storage.
If you’re unable to produce a specimen due to illness, anxiety, pain or cultural or religious reasons, your provider can help using:
Your surgeon will collect a testicular tissue. Collection may involve the use of a scalpel to remove the tissue or a needle to draw up the sample.
When you’re ready to pursue pregnancy, your fertility team thaws the frozen specimen. Your provider:
The main advantage is that you may still be able to have a biological child, despite your condition or circumstance.
Procedures used in fertility preservation have some risks:
Fertility preservation procedures don’t guarantee pregnancy. Freezing eggs, sperm and embryos is the most common type of preservation and has a long history of success for some people. Other procedures are not widely used, so their effectiveness isn’t clear.
What is clear is that success varies widely and depends on a variety of health and treatment-related factors. Your provider can help you assess these factors and better understand your chances of a successful pregnancy.
The success of IVF depends on your:
This procedure is relatively rare but there are reports of 130+ live births occurring after it. The success of ovarian tissue preservation may depend on the number of eggs your ovaries contain at the time of removal. This number decreases with age, so younger tissues have better outcomes. Two live births have been reported from women who were children at the time of ovarian tissue harvest: age 9 years (prepubertal) and age 13 years (pubertal but premenarchal).
Ovarian transposition is not nearly as common as IVF. Ovarian function may be impacted by radiation therapy, even with relocation. However, providers have reported successful egg harvesting and pregnancies after ovarian transposition.
It’s best to start fertility preservation procedures as soon as possible. The optimal timing is:
If you’ve had past medical treatments that may have decreased your fertility already, talk to your provider about your options for fertility preservation.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cancer and other diseases and circumstances can impact your ability to have a biological child. Through modern medicine, you can preserve your fertility now for a pregnancy (either of your own or through a surrogate) in the future. Some people also wish to preserve their fertility due to their age or their wish to delay starting a family. Early fertility preservation is ideal, so talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible about your options. This will help you make an informed decision and choose an approach that meets your needs.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/22/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.