Technological changes in egg, sperm and embryo cryopreservation can benefit many transgenders and nonheterosexuals in creating a family.
Fertility preservation is a very, very big advancement in our field. It has given so many wonderful people the option to have a family. The idea has been around for a long time but the biggest advancement was realized in the cryopreservation technology that allows us to freeze and thaw eggs with great success.
This became much more available about seven years ago. Before then, 50-70 percent of eggs would survive a thaw. Here at RSC and other leading places, it’s now around 90 percent!
Dr. Teresa Woodruff is usually credited with bringing the movement mainstream when she coined the term oncofertility at Northwestern. She has assembled an amazing team of biologists and other important scientists in her lab that have pushed fertility preservation to amazing new frontiers. One of her biggest is highlighted in this amazing story from PBS Newshour about transgender fertility preservation.
Fertility preservation has so many wonderful sides to it. We’re talking about women with cancer who need to freeze their eggs within 2-3 weeks (we can!) before fertility-damaging cancer treatments begin. Or women who are determined to be the CEO of two companies and want to freeze their eggs (one of my own patients!) when they are younger so they can become pregnant when their career slows down. Or women who are in a “complicated” relationship that want the ability to have time to consider their future and make it their own.
Transgenders – and Ls, Gs, Bs, Qs, Is & As – need a tribe
This also includes the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual) community. In addition to the above reasons, transgender men and women have to think about their fertility before they start their transformations. This means they have to plan for their fertility WAAAY ahead.
Personally, I have a hard time grasping what people destined to be transgender have endured in their lives just to get the life they deserve. Which makes it seem so unfair to have to add one more thing!
Many transgender individuals complete their transformation by taking hormones and undergoing surgery. As you can imagine, this will have serious consequences on someone’s future fertility. Compounding this is that many make this decision in their late teens or early 20s, when having a family is not usually at the top of their list of concerns.
For transgender females, this process is actually relatively straightforward. Before starting hormones, these patients can visit a sperm bank and save their sperm for potential use in the future. The major jump ahead is for transgender males, because these patients have to consider if they want to freeze their eggs before starting hormones like testosterone that will make it much less likely, or even impossible, to get eggs in the future.
On top of that is the universal desire to have a family. Everyone needs a chance to have their own tribe, right? Thanks to pioneers like Dr. Woodruff and other oncofertility researchers at Penn, Harvard and UCSD, the field has been designated its own specialty in the 2000s and is now receiving much needed attention and grant money.
Many IVF centers recognize this need and are stepping up to the challenge. Here at RSC we have a very robust fertility preservation program. We are excellent at freezing eggs and sperm and have developed an expertise in treating patients in these delicate social and medical situations. If you feel that you might need help or have questions, please feel free to reach out to us, and we will help!
And as the Reading Rainbow used to say, “Don’t just take our word for it…”