What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation is a method of preserving women’s eggs, which allows them to preserve the opportunity to have a baby in the future. As women age, they normally produce fewer eggs and often the viability of these eggs also decreases, which means that the chances of conceiving naturally are also lower. Freezing eggs at a younger age and using them later in life may provide a better chance of conception.
Why should this be done?
Freezing eggs is a good option for patients who have a medical condition or are taking medication that affects fertility, such as cancer. You may also choose to freeze your eggs (selective egg freezing) simply out of concern that your fertility is declining because you have not found the right partner or are not ready to have a child, but do want to in the future. Other possible candidates are for members of the military or similar situations where there is a risk of serious injury or even death, and for those planning to undergo a sex change operation.
Egg freezing is a method of preserving women’s eggs.
preserving women’s eggs
What does egg freezing involve?
Egg freezing begins in the same way as IVF; this usually involves the patient taking fertility drugs to temporarily increase egg production and maturation. The doctors then retrieve the eggs while the patient is sedated. About 15 eggs may be taken from most patients, but may be fewer, depending on fertility.
Instead of mixing the eggs with sperm, they are mixed with a cryoprotectant (freezing solution). This will protect the eggs during the freezing process. The actual freezing is done by flash freezing (vitrification) or slow cooling, after which they are stored in liquid nitrogen.
The maximum storage time is normally 10 years, but in certain situations the eggs can be stored for up to 55 years, or if the patient wants less than 10.
When the woman wants to use her eggs, they are thawed and then fertilized. Standard IVF is generally not used, as eggs that have been frozen tend to have a tough outer layer that sperm find more difficult to penetrate. Instead, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is often used, which involves an expert embryologist injecting one sperm directly into each egg, thus maximizing the chances of fertilization.
Success of Egg Freezing
It is difficult to say how successful egg freezing is, as the number of women who do it is very low at present. Egg cryopreservation is a relatively new and rapidly changing field, with new advances all the time, but few studies on its reliability. If you are considering freezing your eggs, choose an experienced clinic with a high success rate with their patients.