What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation which is to freeze a woman’s eggs in liquid nitrogen. This helps in preserving the female’s ability to become pregnant in the future. Under normal circumstances, it is advisable to freeze eggs at a younger age such that there is no decline in the ability of the eggs, despite the individual’s growing age.
Why freeze your eggs?
Freezing of eggs prolongs the reproductive ability of the woman until much later in her reproductive life. In case someone chooses to delay their family life for a much later stage, egg freezing ensures that they have a much better chance of conception and pregnancy. It is also helpful in case of cancer treatment, which may hamper your ability to conceive post-treatment.
Some women may also suffer from a premature ovarian failure, need to undergo surgery, or may have any accidental causes that limit their ability to reproduce. In each of these cases, it is helpful if they have frozen their eggs.
How does egg freezing process work?
The following are the steps involved in egg retrieval and egg freezing
- Egg Freezing Assessment & Consultation:
The procedure to freeze one’s eggs begins with an assessment & consultation. The doctor will undertake a thorough assessment of the need and possibility of freezing the patient’s eggs and advise the next course of action.
- Ovarian Stimulation:
Following the consultation, if it is agreed that the eggs are to be frozen, then the patient is placed on medication (hormone injections for roughly 10 days)to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Some transvaginal ultrasound checks and blood work is also done to ensure the process is coming along well without any complications. The doctor will use this information to refine the treatment protocol and schedule.
- Egg Retrieval:
The actual egg retrieval is similar to the IVF procedure, which takes about 15-20 minutes, and then the retrieved eggs are cryopreserved. During the process, the doctor uses a small needle to drain the fluid in the ovarian follicles. The procedure will not hurt as it’s done under light sedation monitored by an anesthesiologist. The needle used to retrieve the eggs is passed through the vaginal wall without any cuts or stitches so recovery time is minimal. You can return to work the following day after a day’s rest. Following retrieval, your follicular fluid will be taken to the embryology lab to search and isolate your eggs in preparation for freezing.
The eggs isolated are cryopreserved using a flash-freezing technique called Vitrification which dehydrates and freezes the eggs immediately providing the best survival rate upon thawing. After being frozen, the eggs are moved into state-of-the-art storage containers to be made available for your use whenever you’re ready.
What are the alternatives to egg freezing?
Some of the commonly available alternatives to cryopreservation include freezing of the embryos, split cycle freezing, and ovarian tissue freezing.
Why freeze and bank eggs?
Freezing & banking of eggs prolongs the woman’s reproductive ability until much later in her reproductive life. In case, someone chooses to delay their family life for a much later stage; egg freezing ensures that they have a much better chance of conception and pregnancy. It is also useful in case of cancer treatment, which may hamper your ability to conceive post-treatment.
What are the risks and side effects of egg freezing and egg banking?
Egg freezing includes several risks such as complications with the procedure, ovarian hyperstimulation, and even some emotional side-effects. In some cases, risks include swollen ovaries, abdominal pain, and bloating. Also, there is a very small possibility that after all the trouble the eventual conception may not occur leading to emotional strain.