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Preserving fertility

5-minute read

Why might I consider treatments to preserve my fertility?

You may not want, or be able to try for a baby right now. However, you might still want to keep your options open for the future. If so, you might consider the options available to preserve your fertility.

If you’re going to receive treatment for cancer or another health condition that might involve medicines or undergoing a procedure, this could affect your chances of having a baby in the future. If so, you might want to discuss fertility preservation with your doctor before receiving treatment.

Healthy women who would like to delay starting a family for personal reasons may choose to freeze their eggs to maximise their chances of conceiving successfully at a later stage in life. Some gender-diverse people may also consider fertility preservation prior to transitioning.

What options are there for me to preserve my fertility?

There are more ways to preserve fertility than ever before, as technological advances create options both for men and women. Obviously, procedures differ between men and women. The procedure used will also depend on why the person needs to preserve their fertility. For example, it might be because they are receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer, or they are taking medicines for other conditions that affect fertility.

Women can choose to freeze their eggs for use later in life. The quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs often declines with age; freezing good-quality eggs removed at a younger age can increase the chance of successful conception later on.

You may also choose to freeze embryos (eggs that have already been fertilised by sperm) for later use. Eggs and embryos can be extracted and frozen using a procedure similar to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Instead of being implanted, the samples are frozen for use later in life.

If freezing eggs is not an option, your doctor may advise you to consider undergoing a minor surgical procedure to remove a small section of ovary. This section can then be frozen and grafted onto the ovary later. The aim is for it to begin functioning normally, allowing you to ovulate and conceive naturally.

Men can preserve their fertility by freezing sperm. For healthy men who can ejaculate, this is a relatively simple procedure. Men who are unable or unwilling to masturbate to produce a semen sample can have a minor surgical procedure to remove sperm directly from the testicles.

What are my chances of conceiving following fertility preservation treatment?

Success rates for IVF following egg/embryo freezing vary widely based on several variables, such as your age, but usually range between 25 and 40 per cent. Partial ovary freezing is not commonly performed but has been successful in more than 100 cases worldwide. You can ask your doctor whether partial ovary freezing is suitable for your situation.

How much do fertility preservation treatments cost?

In Australia, fertility treatments including fertility preservation can be expensive. Part of the cost may be covered by , or if you have it, and you will need to be referred for fertility preservation treatment by your doctor. Most people will also need to pay some fees out-of-pocket, but this will vary according to your circumstance, for example, based on: In Australia, fertility treatments, including fertility preservation, can be expensive. Medicare — or private health insurance, if you have it — might cover part of the cost, but you will need to be referred for fertility preservation treatment by your doctor. Most people will also need to pay some fees out-of-pocket, but this will vary according to your circumstances. For example, the fee might partly be based on:

  • which services you need
  • how much your doctor charges
  • whether you have private health insurance

In addition to any fees associated with treatments you may need later on, egg, embryo or sperm storage fees are usually charged annually and are not reimbursed by Medicare.

Talk to your doctor, a specialist clinic and your health insurer to find out what the different costs are and whether you, Medicare or your health insurance will be covering the costs.

Is fertility preservation available to everyone?

Access to assisted reproductive technologies (ART), including fertility preservation, is set by national ethical guidelines and Australian state law. Individuals and couples may not be refused access to treatment because of their gender identity or relationship status. However, not everyone who seeks fertility treatment will receive Medicare funding.

Fertility clinics must follow Australian law and ethical guidelines covering the collection and storage of eggs, sperm and embryos for fertility preservation and fertility treatment. These may vary from state to state. Your doctor or a local fertility clinic will be able to help you better understand your options and opportunities in your state or territory.

Check the Service finder to find a fertility service near you.

Who can I talk to for more information and support?

Considering fertility preservation can be a daunting prospect and it can help to talk with people you trust. The choices available to you will depend on your specific medical and other circumstances. See your doctor and medical team for advice.

The Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria has produced a video on treatment options for fertility preservation during cancer treatment.

You can also contact the following organisations for information and support:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2021

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