Fertility Preservation Program
What is fertility preservation?
Some medical conditions and treatments can make it harder or impossible to get pregnant or to make someone pregnant later in life. Sometimes patients can take steps to make it more likely to have biological children in the future. This is called “fertility preservation.”
The Fertility Preservation Program at Seattle Children’s helps by:
- Talking to you about how your condition or treatment may affect your fertility
- Giving you information written for teens and young adults to help you understand all your choices
- Referring you to other experts at Seattle Children’s or to fertility preservation services in the Seattle area
We cannot be certain about who will have fertility problems and who will not. In addition, some patients may be too young for many methods of fertility preservation. Others may not have time before their treatment starts.
As part of your long-term follow-up after treatment, your healthcare team will check your fertility and help you plan for the future. If fertility is a problem, we can help you think of other ways to start a family.
What’s special about fertility preservation at Seattle Children’s?
At Seattle Children’s, fertility preservation is a normal part of taking care of our patients. If your condition or treatment may harm your fertility, your doctor will talk with you and your family about it.
We will tell you about possible ways to preserve your fertility. We will help you and your family understand the strengths, limits, successes and science behind each option. Our goal is to help you make the choices that are right for you.
You will get expert care from specialists in our Urology and Gynecology programs and our Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. We help you take needed steps such as making arrangements with a sperm bank or a reproductive center that stores eggs or ovarian tissue.
We are the only hospital in our region to offer ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC), a way to remove and freeze immature eggs so they can be used later in life. This makes fertility preservation possible for patients who have not yet gone through puberty and for those who cannot delay treatment to ripen and freeze their eggs.
If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s care provider to refer you.
Providers, see how to refer a patient.
What conditions and treatments affect fertility?
Fertility is most likely to be affected by:
- High-dose chemotherapy and radiation needed to treat some cancers and blood disorders
- Medicines for some kidney conditions
- Certain genetic conditions such as Turner syndrome
- Some types of gender-affirming care
How your fertility is affected depends on:
- The condition you have
- Your gender
- Your age at the time of treatment
- The kind of chemotherapy or other drugs that you receive
- Where on your body you get radiation
- The amount of medicine and radiation you receive
- How long it has been since treatment when you try to have a baby
Cancer Treatments and a Woman’s Fertility (13:14)
Cancer Treatments and a Man’s Fertility (10:54)
Options to Preserve Fertility
Freezing and storing some of your sperm is called sperm banking. This is an option for patients who are physically and emotionally mature, starting about age 12.
Usually sperm are collected by having you ejaculate into a container. If that is not possible, patients who are near puberty (peripubertal) may be eligible for a surgical option to get sperm. This is called testicular sperm extraction (TESE).
It is best to do sperm banking before treatment starts. There may be other times when this will also work. Talk to your healthcare team.
Only you can use your sperm. The sperm bank will talk to you about what will happen to your sperm sample if you do not need it in the future.
Ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC) is a way to remove and freeze immature eggs so they can be used later in life. This is the only fertility preservation option for young patients who have not gone through puberty. It also is an option for patients who cannot delay their treatment to ripen and freeze eggs.
Surgeons at Seattle Children’s remove all or part of an ovary that contains immature eggs. The ovarian tissue is sent to UPMC in Pittsburgh, where it is frozen. Reprotech stores the tissue until you are ready to use it.
Besides making it possible to get pregnant and give birth, this procedure also helps restore the hormone-producing function of the ovaries.
Freezing eggs and storing them is an option for those who have started having periods (menstruation). This involves taking hormones to make your ovaries release eggs (ovulate) before you start treatment. Then, a procedure is done to remove your eggs.
They can be frozen without being fertilized (oocyte cryopreservation). Or they can first be fertilized with sperm from your partner or another donor. Freezing fertilized eggs is called embryo cryopreservation.
The eggs or embryos can be stored for many years until you are ready to become a parent. If your unfertilized eggs have been stored, your partner’s or donor’s sperm can be used to fertilize the eggs.
Preserving eggs takes at least 2 weeks to finish before you start treatment for your illness. This is how long it takes for the hormones to make you ovulate. Your doctor can let you know if it is safe to delay your treatment. In some cases, egg collection can be done after you finish treatment or between treatments.
Read more about freezing eggs to preserve fertility (PDF).
Health insurance may not cover these procedures. Ask your health insurer what is covered and how much you will have to pay.
You may be able to get financial help from the clinic that is storing your sperm or eggs or from programs like LIVESTRONG.
Fertility Preservation Team
If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider to refer you.
Providers, see how to refer a patient.
Scheduling an appointment
- How to schedule an appointment at Seattle Children’s.
- If you already have an appointment, learn more about how to prepare.
- Learn about resources such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.