Is Ovarian Tissue Freezing Better Than Egg Freezing?

I first heard the term “ovarian tissue freezing” in a Facebook group in 2021 when I was doing research about egg freezing. I was both curious and confused. How can ovarian tissue make a baby? Is it easier (and cheaper) than freezing your eggs? I had a bunch of questions.

I read a couple of articles about it and basically just moved ahead with freezing my eggs because no doctor that I knew of was talking about it. But recently, I’ve seen the discussion around the topic pop up more.

I want my blog to always be a source of relevant information for young women when it comes to preserving their fertility. So in today’s post, I’m going to give you all the need-to-know information about ovarian tissue freezing and if it could be a potential option for you.

What is ovarian tissue freezing?

Ovarian tissue freezing is a method of preserving a woman’s fertility by removing and freezing a piece of her ovarian tissue.

This tissue can later be thawed and transplanted back into the woman’s body, allowing her to potentially conceive a child in the future. The process is often used for women who are facing cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy) that may harm their fertility, as well as those who want to delay childbearing for personal or other medical reasons.

Believe it or not, ovarian tissue freezing actually began back in the late 1990s. According to a study by the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, the first successful ovarian tissue freezing and transplantation was performed in 2004 and resulted in a live birth. This really paved the way for more women to preserve their fertility aside from egg freezing.

Process of ovarian tissue freezing

In ovarian tissue freezing, also known as ovarian cryopreservation, the ovarian tissue is surgically removed, carefully prepared, and then frozen using a technique called vitrification, which prevents ice crystal formation and preserves the tissue’s integrity.

The process involves several steps according to John Hopkins Medicine, including consultation and consent, ovarian tissue retrieval surgery, processing and freezing of the tissue, and storage.

When the woman is ready to use the tissue, it can be thawed and re-implanted into the body, where it can potentially restore hormonal function and fertility.

Benefits of ovarian tissue freezing vs. egg freezing

Unlike egg freezing, ovarian tissue freezing can potentially provide a woman with more opportunities for future fertility. It preserves the surrounding tissues that support the eggs development, providing a broader range of options for conception.

Fertility preservation for cancer patients

By preserving the ovarian tissue, cancer patients have the potential to regain their fertility after completing their cancer treatment.

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and certain surgeries can have detrimental effects on a woman’s fertility.

Chemotherapy drugs can damage the eggs in the ovaries, while radiation therapy can harm the reproductive organs and cause early menopause. In some cases, surgeries may involve removing the uterus or ovaries, resulting in infertility.

Expanded fertility options for prepubertal girls and women with premature menopause

For young prepubertal girls who may face the risk of infertility due to medical treatments like chemotherapy, ovarian tissue freezing can be a hopeful option.

By preserving a piece of their ovarian tissue before starting treatment, they have the chance to have their fertility restored in the future when they are ready to start a family.

Similarly, women facing premature menopause can also benefit from ovarian tissue freezing.

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), also known as premature ovarian failure, happens when a woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally before she turns 40. This condition can lead to irregular or skipped periods, fertility problems, and symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. POI can be caused by genetic factors, autoimmune diseases, or certain medical treatments.

Early onset menopause can have significant impacts on a woman’s fertility and overall well-being. By freezing a piece of their ovarian tissue before their fertility significantly declines, women can possibly use this tissue to regain some of their reproductive function for the future.

Risks of ovarian tissue freezing

Ovarian tissue freezing does come with some risks and side effects.

One potential risk is the possibility of infection or damage to surrounding organs during the surgical removal of the tissue.

There’s also a small risk of reintroducing cancer cells if the tissue is re-implanted after cancer treatment.

Other side effects may include pain, scarring, and hormonal imbalances.

Does insurance cover ovarian tissue freezing?

Insurance coverage for elective ovarian tissue freezing can vary depending on the insurance provider and policy.

Some insurance plans may cover the procedure if it is deemed medically necessary, such as for cancer patients undergoing fertility-preserving treatments.

However, for individuals seeking elective ovarian tissue freezing for non-medical reasons, insurance may not cover the costs. It’s best to check with your insurance provider to understand your specific coverage and potential out-of-pocket expenses for elective ovarian tissue freezing.

At the end of the day, ovarian tissue freezing is just one alternative to egg freezing, their methods and processes are vastly different but the end goal of preserving fertility is the same.

Have you heard of ovarian tissue freezing before? Let me know in the comments. If you want to learn more about fertility topics or egg freezing which I love to write about, check out my other posts.

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