What it is?
Egg freezing is the process of freezing (cryopreservation) the eggs (oocytes) that are matured inside the woman. Unfertilized mature eggs are taken or harvested from woman’s ovaries, frozen and stored. When required, this frozen egg is thawed, fertilized with sperm in the lab, and placed in the woman’s uterus.Unlike embryo freezing, egg freezing does not require sperm from a male partner.
Who can do it?
- Healthy, fertile women who want to delay getting pregnant while preserving fertility.
- Women with medical conditions that can affect fertility or that require medical treatments, e.g. for cancer.
- Women who are undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
How we do it?
The entire process takes up to 2-3 weeks.
Primary screening (ovarian reserve testing and screening for infectious disease): To check the quantity and quality of your eggs, the doctor will perform antral follicle count (AFC) and anti- Müllerian hormone (AMH) tests at the beginning of your menstrual cycle.A general check-up will be done to screen for any infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Ovarian stimulation: Hormone injections will be given to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs instead of single egg that develops every month. During your follow-up visits, the doctor will recommend a blood test to check the hormonal level and will do an ultrasound to confirm if the egg is ready for removal.
Removing the eggs: Multiple eggs are removed and are done so during sedation. Talk to your doctor to know about any precautions to take after the procedure.
Vitrification: This process is considered the “reference standard” in oocyte freeing. After 4-5 hours of removing the eggs, we use the vitrification process for freezing eggs which uses “cryoprotectants”, substances that prevent formation of ice crystals, with rapid cooling. This method increases the chances of egg survival and has improved pregnancy rates.
Studies have shown that the chances of pregnancy increase by increasing the number of frozen eggs. Usually, 10-15 eggs are removed in 1 cycle.
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: The hormone injections given to stimulate ovulation may cause the ovaries to become swollen and painful resulting in mild pain, bloating, and nausea.
Effects of anesthesia: Since the process is done under general anesthesia, some patients may experience nausea, vomiting, uneasiness, dizziness.
Egg retrieval procedure complications: In rare cases, the needle that is used to remove the eggs may cause bleeding, infection or damage to the bowel, bladder or a blood vessel.
The ideal age for women to consider egg freezing is 35 years and younger. Clinical studies have shown that the chances of successful IVF and ICSI outcomes are low when the eggs are vitrified or frozen at an advanced age. Thus, maternal age is a major factor in clinical success with the cut-off being 35 years of age.
No negative effects have been observed when storing the eggs for longer duration. However, if the woman becomes at an advanced age, it may be associated with higher complications. Hence, talk to your doctor to check for how long should you freeze the eggs and by when you should use them.
Several studies have shown that the fertilization and pregnancy rates after IVF and ICSI are similar between frozen and fresh eggs.
The clinical data that compared the births resulting from frozen vs fresh eggs, showed that there is no additional risk of birth defects when frozen eggs are used compared with the general population.
Egg freezing is a safe and effective methods for eligible patients. With notable advances made in the last decade, there have been major improvements in the final outcomes and application of egg freezing. Since the process is expensive, consult your doctor to check if this is the right option for you.