What is egg freezing?
Also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing is a technique used to retain a woman’s ability to become pregnant in the future. Egg freezing might be a good option if you’re not yet ready to become pregnant, but want to make sure you can do so later.
The egg freezing process
1. Examination and screening
To assess if you are a good candidate for the procedure, you must first undergo some tests. These include blood tests to screen for infectious diseases like Hepatitis B and C and HIV. An ovarian reserve test is also often performed. This helps your doctor determine the quantity and quality of your eggs.
2. Ovarian stimulation and monitoring
You will be given hormonal medication to stimulate the growth of ovarian follicles. A follicle is a fluid-filled sac that contains an immature egg, known as an oocyte, that matures during the menstrual cycle. In a normal cycle, multiple follicles begin to develop, but only one will mature and release through ovulation. Ovarian stimulation increases the number of follicles that will develop mature eggs.
You may visit your fertility specialist several times for monitoring during this process. At the same time, blood will be taken to measure your hormones, since estrogen levels increase as the follicle develops and progesterone levels should remain low before ovulation. Additionally, vaginal ultrasounds are performed to monitor the development of the follicles. After about 10-14 days, your follicles will be ready for the egg retrieval procedure.
3. Egg retrieval
Once the follicles are ready, you will be given an injection to complete the egg maturing process and trigger ovulation. Your eggs will be retrieved through a transvaginal procedure, instead of being released on their own.
You will be given intravenous medication for light sedation and pain relief during the procedure. The doctor will use an ultrasound to guide a needle that will remove your eggs from the follicles. The number of eggs retrieved can vary but typically ranges from 5 and 15. The more eggs retrieved, the greater the chance of a successful future pregnancy.
Once the procedure is finished, an embryologist will select the eggs that are mature and can be successfully fertilised, and these will be frozen and stored.
You may consider egg freezing if:
- You wish to delay childbearing for medical or personal reasons.
- You plan to donate eggs to a family member, friend or even a stranger.
- You are planning a procedure or surgery that might kill some of your eggs or damage your ovaries.
- You are a cancer patient who is about to undergo radiation treatment or chemotherapy.
Who is a good candidate for egg freezing?
Anyone who wishes to preserve their fertility for personal or medical reasons may be a good candidate for egg freezing. It is important for anyone thinking about doing this to speak to a specialist sooner rather than later.
Women are encouraged to freeze their eggs when they are younger. Women in their mid-reproductive years can still produce eggs for freezing, the quality of these diminishes from the age of 37.
Credit: Alpha IVF & Women’s Specialists