What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a method of storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs to allow her to try to conceive at a later date, when natural conception would be unlikely. It may be seen as a way of preserving the possibility of fertility for women who are not in a position to become pregnant straight away, or whose fertility is at risk for medical reasons such as cancer treatment.
Frozen eggs may be stored for many years without significant deterioration. When the woman is ready to use her eggs, they are warmed, and then fertilised with sperm. The aim is for the fertilised egg to develop into an embryo, which can then be transferred to the woman’s uterus giving a chance of pregnancy.
Who Needs Egg (oocyte) Freezing?
Cryopreservation of the oocytes can be considered for a variety of reasons:
*Women with cancer requiring chemotherapy and/or pelvic radiation therapy that may affect fertility.
*Surgery that may cause damage to the ovaries.
*Risk of premature ovarian failure because of chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Turner syndrome, fragile X syndrome), or family history of early menopause.
*Ovarian disease with risk of damage to the ovaries.
*Genetic mutations requiring removing the ovaries (e.g. BRCA mutation).
*Fertility preservation for social or personal reasons to delay childbearing.
Why freeze my eggs?
There are many reasons why women choose to freeze their eggs. Some choose to freeze their eggs for social reasons, if they have not found the right partner for example, or if the time is not right to have a child.
For others it may be a medical decision, in the face of a diagnosis such as cancer or being at risk of early menopause. Freezing eggs can be a very reassuring and empowering step, and it allows women to take control of their own fertility.
What are the Risks Associated with the Oocyte Cryopreservation Procedure?
Egg Freezing Risks
Risks are similar to those associated with ovarian stimulation for IVF, which include small risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (enlargement of the ovaries and fluid accumulation in the pelvis and abdomen), infection, and bleeding related to the egg retrieval procedure.
Egg Freezing Process
Your doctor may perform an assessment of the ovarian reserve to estimate the potential yield of oocytes prior to ovarian stimulation cycle. The assessment would include blood tests and pelvic ultrasound. This will also help to determine the necessary dose of medications. Ovarian stimulation is carried out in the same manner that is used with in vitro fertilization (IVF), using injectable hormonal medications. Following the stimulation, the oocytes and the surrounding fluid in the ovarian follicles are aspirated vaginally while under sedation.
The maturity of the eggs is assessed under the microscope, and those that are mature are cryopreserved. Currently, vitrification is the method of choice for cryopreserving oocytes, and this is achieved by ultra-rapid cooling into liquid nitrogen where they can be stored.
How long can eggs be stored?
The law allows the storage of your eggs for any period up to 10 years but in cases where you or your partner are prematurely infertile or likely to become prematurely infertile, you may store for longer, up to 55 years.