Everything You Need To Know About Egg Freezing

Egg freezing has been around for over 30 years, and the first baby to be born from frozen eggs was i...

Egg freezing has been around for over 30 years, and the first baby to be born from frozen eggs was in the year 1986. Human oocyte cryopreservation or egg freezing is a process in which a woman's eggs are extracted, frozen and stored. Later, when she wants to become pregnant, the eggs can be thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus as embryos. The chances of getting pregnant through this method would depend on several factors including the quality of her eggs.

Everything You Need To Know About Egg Freezing

The decision to freeze their eggs is taken mostly in the following situations:
  • Women who want or need to delay childbearing. It can be simply because they're not ready or they don't want to feel pressured to find a partner or they have a stronger desire to focus on their career and financial status. With egg freezing a woman can serve as her own egg donor when she is ready to conceive later in life.
  • Women who have cancer, endometriosis, premature ovarian failure or family history of early menopause also go for egg freezing.

Egg Freezing with Vitrification

Vitrification is a technique which cools the eggs at a very fast rate so that the eggs are preserved without the formation of damaging ice crystals. Typically, it takes one or two cycles of extraction to get a good number of eggs from a woman's body. Before undergoing egg freezing various tests will be performed to determine your current reproductive potential. It is important to determine the most optimal stimulation protocol for you, with the aim of maximizing egg number while achieving good egg quality from any given egg freezing cycle.

Stages Of Egg Freezing

1. Depending upon the treatment protocol prescribed for you, with the beginning of your menstrual cycle, you will either be given instructions to begin your fertility drugs, or instructions to wait for a certain date within the three weeks following the start of your period to begin a medication. This allows the doctors the opportunity to optimize your ovaries for the fertility drugs that will follow.

2. After your eggs have been determined to have matured adequately, you will be scheduled for the surgical harvesting of your eggs. 
3. After your eggs have been recovered, they are prepared in the cryopreservation laboratory by the embryologist.
4. The vitrification process begins which consists of two stages. The first dehydrates the egg to remove much of the liquid, the second stage freezes the eggs so rapidly that the transformation from liquid to solid is instantaneous. 
5. After this, the eggs are kept in liquid nitrogen, where they can remain frozen indefinitely.

Egg Freezing Process

Egg Retrieval Procedure

This process is done when you have enough matured eggs available for freezing. A mild sedation is given so that you will not feel the pain. Eggs are collected by the doctor by passing a needle through the vagina into the ovary. The fluid from follicles is emptied for the retrieval process and the eggs are collected. This procedure lasts for around 15-25 minutes post which you will be asked to rest at home.

Future Pregnancy With Egg Freezing

Since the eggs have been frozen unfertilized, the fertilization of previously frozen eggs requires special techniques and handling. The successful fertilization of cryopreserved eggs is greatly enhanced by the use of a process called "ICSI" (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Utilizing this method ensures the best chance for the fertilization of the eggs and their subsequent development into healthy embryos with the potential to produce an ongoing pregnancy.
The amount of time your eggs can be frozen depends on the health of your eggs and your health. In the whole process of egg freezing, you can experience mild to moderate pain or discomfort.

Pregnancy Through Egg Freezing

Things You Should Know Before Freezing Your Eggs

Safety

The risks of egg freezing are generally low. There are risks during both ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval. The main risk during ovarian stimulation is an over-response syndrome; however, the incidence remains low. The risks for egg retrieval are similar to those encountered with minor same day surgery.

Pregnancy is not guaranteed with egg freezing

The chances of pregnancy depend on many factors such as how old women are when they freeze their eggs and the number of eggs they freeze. Freezing eggs may increase your chances of having a baby later in life, but it is no guarantee of having a child. You should aim to freeze roughly 10-15 eggs for each desired pregnancy.

Egg freezing works best if it's done at younger ages

The chances of pregnancy are greater if a woman uses "younger" eggs which refer to the eggs she froze in her 20's or early 30's, rather than later on. Studies tend to find that pregnancy rates for women who freeze their eggs after age 38 are significantly lower than for those who freeze their eggs at younger ages.

Hormone injections

Patients have to give themselves daily hormone injections for two weeks before eggs are retrieved from the ovaries.

The success rates

The success rates of treatment after egg freezing have vastly increased since Vitrification technology was developed in the year 2000. In Vitrification, fast-freezing is used so that eggs are frozen incredibly rapidly. This prevents the formation of damaging ice crystals, which can cause damage to the eggs upon thawing. It depends on how many eggs you freeze, if 10 eggs are frozen then there will be 40% chance of a live birth.

Removal of experimental label

Egg-freezing gained popularity after the American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the "experimental" label from the procedure in 2012.

Expensive

The cost of the primary visit and investigations consists of Consultation and Ultrasound with your Doctor, Hormonal Blood testing, Infection tests including HIV, Hepatitis B, and vaginal infection tests. Freezing your eggs is expensive. The egg retrieval process can cost $10,000-15,000 and that does not include the storage fees which can be around $500 a year or the cost of fertilization and embryo transfer with IVF which costs about $5000.

Risks Involved In Egg Freezing

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome: This is rare, but serious complication when fertility drugs are used and too many eggs develop in the ovaries, it is known as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. The symptoms include lower abdominal pain accompanied by swelling of the abdomen. The ovaries become very large surrounded by fluid and this may cause nausea. The loss of fluid in this way may lead to dehydration and decreased urine output. Any woman developing abdominal pain and swelling after the egg collection procedure is advised to go for a check-up. This syndrome is usually avoided by choosing the lowest dose of fertility drugs that will produce an adequate number of eggs. If all the follicles are drained at the time of egg collection, the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome may be greatly reduced and we can further reduce the risk of the syndrome by the use of tablets for two weeks following the egg collection.

Bleeding: Any surgical procedure carries the risk of bleeding and we avoid this by using very thin needles for the egg collection procedure. You may expect a small amount of bleeding on the day of the egg recovery which will ease after a couple of days. If the bleeding becomes heavier, go for a check-up.

Egg freezing is a huge step. Hopefully, this information helps you in making a life changing decision.

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