Author: Dr. Anshu Yadav
Qualification : MBBS, MD Obstetrics and Gynaecology (AIIMS, Delhi), DNB, DM Reproductive medicine AIIMS, Delhi(cont.)
Everything you need to know about egg freezing
You’re born with a finite number of eggs. This number, as well as the quality of the eggs, decreases with age. This is an unfortunate fact that affects fertility over time.
Not everyone wants to have a baby before the age of 35-40, but with technological advances in the medical field, this is no longer a problem for women. Following in-vitro fertilisation, the next big thing in assisted reproductive technology is the concept of female egg freezing!
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is the process of retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and storing them for later use when the lady believes she is ready to start a family. Oocyte cryopreservation is the medical name for egg freezing.
According to HFEA data, the egg freezing success rate decreases with increase in age, women under 35 who have their eggs frozen have the largest number of births each treatment cycle. This rate decreases as they get older. As a result, a younger, healthier woman may have an egg freezing success rate of 19%.
Why do women freeze their eggs?
Women can choose egg freezing for a variety of reasons. They do not want to have a child right away but want to have a option for their own biological child— Women with cancer frequently choose to have their eggs frozen because chemotherapy and treatment can drastically affect their fertility. Even in IVF treatments, if the male partner is unable to produce sperms on the day of egg retrieval, the eggs can be frozen and used later after warming.
Preparing for the process
A doctor will take a comprehensive medical history with a focus on fertility, assess the regularity of the menstrual cycle, and perform a variety of blood tests to assess hormone levels before beginning the egg freezing process.
Some hormone injections to stimulate egg production will be given to you in order to grow the number of available eggs.
When the woman is ready to use the frozen eggs to conceive, the cryopreserved eggs are placed in a warming solution and evaluated.
Those frozen eggs that survived the freezing process are fertilised, in which a single sperm is injected directly into the egg, and the fertilised eggs will grow in culture until the embryo(s) are ready to be transferred into the uterus to achieve pregnancy, which usually takes 3-5 days after fertilisation.
The benefits of freezing eggs
The success rate of egg freezing is highly dependent on the woman’s age when she froze her eggs, and there is currently little data on how many women actually followed through, thawing their eggs and attempting pregnancy.
However, Egg freezing has two major advantages for women who plan towards becoming pregnant later in life: it allows them to become genetic parents using their frozen-thawed eggs, and it minimises the danger of having children with chromosomal defects linked with chromosomal aneuploidy which increases with advancing age. Furthermore, egg freezing may be a better option than embryo freezing for women who do not have a spouse or who have moral issues about the status of a developing embryo.
How long can the eggs be stored?
With no concrete data on the egg freezing age limit, what we do know is freezing an egg prevents it from ageing. A frozen egg from several years ago has a better chance of fertilisation than a fresh egg from an older woman.
The risks involved
There are some risks associated with the egg freezing method:
- Conditions associated with fertility drug use –
- Pains in the abdomen
- Complications during the egg retrieval like vaginal and abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding etc.
- Emotional risks – The procedure of egg freezing can sometimes provide a woman with false hope and the egg may not survive after warming or may fail to give positive outcome.
- Some patients may experience some of the following symptoms after waking up from the effects of general anaesthesia.
How long does it take to freeze an egg?
Typically, the eggs are retrieved after a week or two of hormone treatments. While the actual process of retrieval takes about ten minutes, the entire process of freezing the egg may take a maximum of two weeks.
What is the best age to freeze your eggs?
Most researchers recommend egg freezing in their mid-to-late twenties for use after the age of 30. Women who are thinking about IVF in the future should not put it off any longer than necessary.
A small but growing percentage of women who expect their fertility to drop as they age opt to freeze their eggs in order to protect their future fertility. Family physicians who freeze women’s eggs should be prepared to provide factual and balanced information about the safety and possibility of a successful outcome to women who inquire about egg freezing, as well as equivalent information about other family-planning options. Physicians should also talk to women who are considering egg freezing about the financial, ethical, and societal ramifications. We at Motherhood IVF hospital provide you with a holistic experience along with a personalised and professional advice on freezing a woman’s eggs.
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