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Fertility Preservation and Age

September 25, 2018
Katie Visco

As we get older it can be more difficult to conceive. Fertility preservation is best started younger rather than older, being within the reproductive age group will give the best results when preserving your fertility. Fertility preservation is a process of saving or protecting sperm, eggs and reproductive tissue. With this, you can have biological children in the future. If you’ve been looking into fertility preservation you might find it a bit hard to follow. Fertility preservation usually benefits people with specific disease or disorders. People who have endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or people who are about to be treated for cancer. There’s a lot of factors to think about when you’re considering fertility preservation, but we’ll try and make it easier to follow.

Endometriosis

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This is a painful disorder where the endometrium, which is the tissue lining the inside of the uterus, grows out of your uterus. This disorder usually involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue that lines your pelvis. Endometriosis like the other disorders that we’ll be talking about is painful and can damage your reproductive organs. This disorder, in particular, affects fertility because of the decreasing number of finite ovarian primordial follicles, and a physic change in the ovarian cortex. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms we encourage you to see a doctor.

  • Cramping

Not to be confused with menstrual cramping, which is common and can usually be helped with over the counter medications, Endometriosis cramps or “killer cramps” are much more severe, severe enough to immobilize you. As you grow older it can get worse.

  • Painful Periods

Painful periods or dysmenorrhea can be a sign of Endometriosis.  Pelvic pain can start before you begin your period and stay with you for several days. Often with painful periods, there are lower back or stomach pains.    

  • Excessive Bleeding

Heavy bleeding and bleeding between periods can be a sign of Endometriosis

  • Infertility

Endometriosis is commonly associated with seeking infertility treatment. Because of this disorder, your body retrieves fewer oocytes and there are a lot less antral follicles when compared to women without a disease or disorder.

With Endometriosis women are encouraged to consider cryopreservation of oocytes, ovarian tissue, and embryos for use in In Vitro Fertilization aka IVF.

Uterine Fibroids

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UterineThese fibroids are a common cause of infertility for women. 20 to 40% of women in the reproductive age develop growths of the myometrium or fibroid tumors. These are usually not malignant. You could be at risk if your family has a history of fibroid tumors, or there are environmental factors like obesity, using birth control, a lack of vitamin D and a diet with more red meat and less green vegetables.  Fibroid tumors can happen without showing any symptoms. Depending on the size and location, they can cause some of these varying symptoms.

  • Heavy Bleeding

Heavy bleeding during your menstrual cycle can point to uterine fibroids in your system. If you are having excessively heavy flow, longer periods or painful periods, we urge you to seek your medical provider.  

  • Pelvic Pressure

If you’re experiencing lots of pelvic pain or pressure you may want to talk to your doctor about what you are feeling. If the pelvic pain is constant see a doctor.

  • Constipation

If you are having trouble going to the restroom or are frequently urinating but can’t empty your bladder talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing to find out what the next step is.

  • Menstrual cycles lasting more than a week

With overly long periods you may be experiencing a symptom of uterine fibroids or fibroid tumors.

Depending on the size and location of your fibroid tumors you can experience some or none of these symptoms. It is best to consult with your doctor to check for fibroid tumors. The general causes of these tumors can be hormones, genes that are different from normal uterine muscle cells, or growth factors like substances that help maintain tissue.

Ovarian Tumors/Cancer

ovarian cancer chart

Ovarian tumors or cancer can affect your fertility. It’s very important to talk to your doctor about your fertility needs before you start treatment for ovarian cancer. This treatment can sometimes result in the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes. Make sure to discuss treatment adjustments, assess your chances of pregnancy after treatment, and talk about the costs to fund the operation.

Fertility Preservation Options

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There are varying options for fertility preservation. We’ve included some options for fertility preservation in women.

  • Embryo and oocyte cryopreservation

The process of embryo freezing is the most successful option for fertility preservation. The first thing the medical provider will do is remove the eggs from your ovaries. After being extracted the eggs are fertilized with sperm from the partner or surrogate in a lab for the process of In Vitro Fertilization. Oocyte cryopreservation is similar to Embryo cryopreservation but the eggs are unfertilized and frozen.

  • Gonadal Shielding

Radiation treatments for cancer can be dangerous for fertility especially when used in the pelvic region. During treatment, a head covering can be placed over the pelvic area to protect ovaries from radiation.

  • Ovarian transposition

This is a minor surgery that involves moving the ovaries and occasionally the fallopian tubes away from the area receiving radiation treatment.  

Preserving your Fertility

Age matters

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As you grow older it can become harder and harder to conceive. It’s good to think about other options like fertility preservation sooner rather than later. With the options, we’ve provided you with have some hope! There are lots of ways to keep your fertility. If you experience any of these disorders or have any of the symptoms it may be worth looking into these options.

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