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Ovarian Tissue Freezing vs. Egg Freezing

Ovarian tissue freezing is no longer experimental and has proven to be superior to egg freezing.

January 1, 2020
Lia Herman

Egg freezing is a great option for women who want to save their eggs for later use. However egg freezing isn’t always the most viable option, for women with special medical or other conditions, or for women who want to preserve hormonal function as well as fertility. Luckily there is another option: ovarian tissue freezing. 

This article covers:

  • What is ovarian tissue freezing
  • What the new study says about ovarian tissue freezing
  • How ovarian tissue freezing compares to egg freezing 

What Is Ovarian Tissue Freezing? 

Ovarian tissue freezing is an outpatient procedure that was largely considered experimental, until now. The outer layer of the ovary contains a large number of immature eggs. For ovarian tissue cryopreservation, this outer layer is removed from the patient and frozen for future use. The ovarian tissue freezing process a part of or a whole ovary to be surgically removed, usually by laparoscopy. The ovary’s outer layer in cut into small strips in a laboratory and frozen.

Because it has been considered a largely experimental procedure, ovarian tissue freezing has for the most part been undergone by cancer patients. When the patient is cured and ready to have children, the ovarian strips are thawed and transplanted back into her body. It can be inserted back onto the remaining ovary or elsewhere. In most cases the ovarian strips will regain functions and can produce eggs and hormones once again. 

Woman holding small girl and kissing her forehead
Once the patient is ready to have children, the ovarian strips that had been surgically removed are transplanted back into her body. She then has a good chance of being able to become pregnant. 

The New Study on Ovarian Tissue Freezing

A new study concerning ovarian tissue freezing was recently published in Reproductive Sciences. The study shows that 4 out of 10 (37.7%) women that freeze their ovarian tissue are able to have children later on, thanks to the procedure. Because of this new study, women looking for options to delay childbirth and preserve fertility have more information about ovarian tissue cryopreservation and can consider it a viable option. 

Dr. Kutluk was the first to carry out this type of procedure in 1999. For this study he worked alongside with his study co-author, Dr. Fernanda Pacheco, to assess the state and success rate of the ovarian tissue freezing procedure. They examined information collected between 1999 and 2016 to find the following results. 

Out of the 309 ovarian freezing procedures, 84 of them resulted in birth, and 8 led to pregnancies that lasted beyond the first trimester. Only 113 cases recorded the age at which the women had the procedure. Women who conceived were on average at age 27. For nearly 2 out of 3 women (63.9%), the procedure restored reproductive functions and reversed menopause. This includes either a resumed menstrual cycle, ovarian follicular growth, or natural fertility. Lastly, the procedure had a major success rate with restoring natural fertility. Two thirds (62.3%) could conceive naturally, while only about one third required In Vitro Fertilization (37.6%).  

Ovarian Tissue Freezing Compared to Egg Freezing

The results of this study show that ovarian tissue freezing is a superior method from egg freezing to preserve fertility. Egg freezing cannot reverse menopause or restore natural fertility as ovarian tissue freezing can. Egg freezing only allows for 10 eggs to be frozen per freezing attempt, but ovarian tissue freezing can freeze hundreds to thousands of immature eggs that can be used later in life. 

Another benefit to ovarian tissue freezing is the procedure can be scheduled on very short notice. In contrast, 1 cycle of egg freezing requires a few weeks to complete. Ovarian tissue freezing is also a much more viable option for younger girls than egg freezing is. If a young girl is diagnosed with cancer or other condition whose treatments are ovary-toxic, she may not have the option of egg freezing. This is because if she has not yet had her first menstrual cycle, the eggs have not yet started the maturation process. 

A swaddled baby with its feet sticking out of the blanket
Ovarian tissue freezing has proven to be a great option for women trying to preserve both their fertility and hormones. When compared to egg freezing, ovarian tissue freezing has more benefits and makes having a child in the future easier.

Because ovarian tissue freezing has been considered mostly experimental, a majority of women who have had the procedure were cancer patients. The next step is to introduce this procedure to healthy women who want to postpone childbirth. This new study has opened a new door to women looking for ways to preserve their fertility, with more benefits on top of it when compared to egg freezing.

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