Understanding the Egg Freezing Process
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, gives women the possibility of preserving their fertility and potentially extending their ability to have genetic children in the future.
Who is a Good Candidate for Egg Freezing?
Anyone who is looking to preserve their fertility due to personal or medical reasons may be a good candidate for egg freezing. If you are thinking about it, it’s important to speak with a specialist sooner rather than later. Women are encouraged to freeze their eggs when they are younger because there’s a higher chance of retrieving and freezing high-quality eggs. A woman’s egg quality peaks during their reproductive prime which is between 16 to 28 years old. Women in their mid-reproductive years—29 to 37 years old—can still produce acceptable eggs for freezing, but egg quality diminishes from age 37 to 44.
Reasons You May Consider Freezing Your Eggs
- You would like to delay childbearing for personal reasons and wish to preserve your chance of having a genetic child.
- You have been diagnosed with cancer and will require chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery that could damage your eggs. If you are going through cancer treatment, make sure to check in with your oncologist to make sure you have enough time to go through fertility preservation.
- You have a non-cancerous disorder that may impact your fertility, for example, removal of both ovaries performed to treat a benign tumor or conditions such as endometriosis. In addition, women who test positive for the BRCA gene or who have a strong family history of ovarian cancer may elect to undergo prophylactic (preemptive) removal of the ovaries and women with autoimmune diseases may be exposed to medications that are toxic to eggs or may experience premature (early) menopause.
The Process of Freezing Your Eggs
To freeze your eggs, your fertility doctor will prescribe medications to stimulate your ovaries in order to produce multiple mature eggs. You will self-administer these medications for 9- 12 days. During this time, you will have frequent monitoring appointments to evaluate your response to the medications, the size and number of maturing follicles (fluid-filled sacs containing an egg), and your hormone levels. Once your eggs are mature, you will give yourself a trigger shot at a precise time, 36-37 hours before your retrieval procedure. This shot finalizes the maturation process. Under sedation, your doctor will use a transvaginal ultrasound with a guided needle to aspirate each mature follicle. The whole process takes 15-30 minutes and most women go home a few hours following the procedure. The eggs are then assessed, and all mature eggs are frozen through vitrification (a flash freezing process).
It’s important to remember that while egg freezing is a safeguard against time, there is no guarantee that freezing your eggs will result in a successful pregnancy in the future. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that women exploring egg freezing should schedule a consultation with a fertility clinic and ask about treatment options, oocyte freezing methods, success rates, and policies about disposing of unused eggs.