The Egg Freezing Process
What is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing (human oocyte cryopreservation) is an innovative technology in which a woman’s eggs (oocytes) are extracted, frozen and stored for future use. Egg freezing allows a woman to take control of her ticking biological clock. If trouble conceiving is experienced when she is ready to become pregnant, the eggs can be thawed and fertilized with sperm, with the resulting embryos then transferred into the uterus. Although not a guarantee, egg freezing is like an insurance policy for a woman’s future fertility.
Who should freeze their eggs?
For some women, knowing that they have preserved eggs brings them peace of mind in a time when they are not prepared for pregnancy. For instance, women with demanding careers or the inflexibility of academic calendars may wish to delay having a family.
Because fertility is known to decline with age, freezing your eggs at an early procreative age will best assure your chance for a pregnancy in the future. The uterus can carry a pregnancy well in to the late 40s, unlike the ovary and oocytes (eggs).
When should I freeze my eggs
In order to take advantage of maximum egg quality and quantity the best time is during a woman’s 20s and early 30s. A woman is born with all of the number of eggs she will ever have, and over time they diminish in number and quality. This decline explains why a woman in her 40s has only a 5 percent chance for becoming pregnant each month, and her eggs have an increased chance for aneuploidy after age 45.*
Basic fertility testing, including hormone and AMH blood testing and an ultrasound to count your follicles, is a start to assess your fertility. A clearer picture of your ovarian function may help you to decide to freeze your eggs for the future, or not. If you are interested in having a family one day but you are concerned about your biological clock, getting your fertility tested is step one.
What happens in egg freezing?
The egg is the largest cell in the human body and contains a large amount of water. The technique of VITRIFICATION allows us to prevent crystallization of the water and will result in over 70 % of all frozen mature eggs to thaw out well, even after many years in liquid nitrogen. Also, the shell of the egg hardens when frozen, so when the egg is thawed for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy, sperm must be injected with a needle to fertilize the egg using a standard technique known as ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection).
In order to retrieve eggs for freezing, a patient undergoes the same hormone-injection process as with in-vitro fertilization (see IVF Cycle Details).
The total time from stimulation start to egg retrieval is usually 12 days. During those 12 days close monitoring and frequent office visits are required to optimize the success and assure maximum safety.
Once the eggs have adequately matured, they are removed with a needle placed through the vagina under ultrasound guidance. This procedure is done under intravenous sedation and pain control and is usually well tolerated. The eggs are then immediately frozen.
Following egg retrieval, the woman goes home and requires no further treatment. A menstrual period will set in 2 weeks after the retrieval.
When the patient wants to use her frozen eggs to attempt pregnancy (this can be several years later) the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
To get started on your journey to Egg Freezing, call or fill out our contact form to schedule your Free Egg Freezing Consult.