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Cryopreservation is a process where sperm, oocytes or embryos are preserved by cooling to low sub-zero temperatures, around −196 °C (the boiling point of liquid nitrogen). At these low temperatures, any biological activity, including the biochemical reactions that would lead to cell death, is effectively stopped.
The Hazrat e Maryam Fertility center provides sperm cryopreservation and storage (known as sperm banking) for men prior to chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or other medical treatments that may jeopardize fertility. It is also available for men with poor sperm counts who may need a back-up sample stored and in cases where the man may be out-of-town at the time of egg retrieval. Sperm freezing is done by freezing several sperm samples in liquid nitrogen at sub-zero temperatures (typically -196°) where it can then be safely stored for several years. When the decision for conception is made, the frozen sperm can be thawed and used in combination with in vitro fertilization and can result in 40-60% pregnancy rate.
Oocyte Cyropreservation or egg freezing, is a relativley new procedure in the field of Oocyte reproductive technologies. Egg freezing allows women to preserve eggs at a younger age for use when they are older. Whether eggs are being cryopreserved as a medical emergency in the setting of a newly-diagnosed cancer or for personal reasons, the technology holds great promise for women of reproductive age. During an egg-freezing cycle, a patient will go through many of the same steps that are involved in a typical IVF cycle: ovulation stimulation, ultrasound monitoring and egg retrieval. After egg retrieval, the eggs will be cultured for a few hours and then frozen the same day for future use.
Untile a sufficient number of births is reached and adequate outcome data are collected, oocyte cyropreservation should continue to be considered experimental and should be performed under the oversight of an institutional review board.
Embryos are eggs that have already been fertilized with sperm. Embryo cryopreservation is used most often to store good-quality excess embryos resulting from an IVF treatment cycle. In cryopreservation, the embryos are gradually “passed through” special solutions lowering their temperature until they reach the cryopreserved stage (-196 F). When the embryos are ready for use in a future IVF cycle they are very carefully and gradually thawed.
Embryos can remain frozen for many years and it is believed that there is no time limitations. Saint Mary Fertility Center has a very successful embryo cryopreservation program.
Cryopreservation makes future ART cycles simpler, less expensive and less invasive than the initial IVF cycle, since the woman does not require multiple ovarian stimulation or egg retrieval. The female partner needs only to take medications to “synch” her body for embryo reception, usually estrogen and progesterone to stimulate the endometrium, and HCG to mimic ovulation. Hundreds of children have been conceived from frozen embryos in Hazrat-e Maryam Fertility Center alone.