Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, allows women to preserve their eggs to have higher chances of pregnancy at ages when it would be difficult to conceive naturally. As we’ve discussed in previous posts (here and here) female infertility challenges stem from the deterioration of the quality and quantity of one’s eggs — often related to aging. Hence, by freezing their eggs while the eggs are young and healthy, women are empowered with reproductive options and given the autonomy to decide when they want to pursue motherhood.
How does it work?
An egg freezing cycle entails four key steps.
- Diagnostic and screening:
During an initial consultation appointment, the doctor will review the science, process, risks and expectations with you. The clinic will run a few tests such as the AMH and do an intra-vaginal ultrasound (not an exterior ultrasound) to better understand the patient’s fertility health and make a personalized plan for the next steps.
- Ovarian stimulation:
Hormonal therapy is needed to stimulate the ovaries. Based on the AMH results and the number of follicles found through the intra-vaginal ultrasound, the doctor prescribes the right course of medication. You will need to give yourself daily hormone injections for almost two weeks. A nurse will check in with the patient every day or every other day during this process for support.
- Egg Retrieval:
This is a 15-minute surgical procedure (yes, just 15 minutes!) in which the doctor will retrieve the patient’s eggs. This is done by the doctor who will gently guide a needle attached to a catheter through the vaginal wall. The eggs are retrieved one by one using light suction. During the process the patient is sedated, so you won’t feel a thing! Most people are able to return to work the day after the procedure.
- Freezing & Storage
Embryologists will isolate the mature eggs retrieved and freeze them with a technique called vitrification. Eggs can be stored indefinitely as evidence so far suggests that frozen eggs do not deteriorate with time. Nevertheless, its is important to bear in mind that some countries have age limits to undergo fertility treatments and that the risk of obstetric and perinatal complications also increases with age.
Make sure you review several reliable sources (from physicians, medical journals and other trusted sites) and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s also important to make sure you are aware of all the available options for egg freezing and understand what the process entails, its benefits, the probabilities of success in your specific situation and risks.
Egg Freezing is effective and safe: Although not a guarantee, success rates are well known and documented. This will allow you to assess how many cycles to do based on how many children you want in the future and be aware of success probability once you want to use your eggs.
Age matters: Given the reality of our biology, age influences the quality and quantity of eggs, which in turn has an impact on the effectiveness of egg freezing. Women opting for egg freezing should do so at younger ages to increase the chances of success when using the eggs in the future.
Female empowerment: Egg freezing allows women to take control of their biology so that they can gain the autonomy to decide when to achieve motherhood while focusing on a range of other pursuits such as career, travel or finding the adequate partner. Nevertheless, its is important to bear in mind that risk of obstetric and perinatal complications also increases with age.
Do you have further questions about egg freezing? You can read other articles here or send us your questions here.