When it comes to IVF, there are several processes that need to go right to provide the expectant couple with the miracle of birth. One of these is known as the cryopreservation technique or Egg (oocyte) freezing. It is a method of storing and saving women’s ability to get pregnant in a future time frame. When it comes to IVF, not everything has to be hurried. One option to delay the option of IVF is to freeze the egg in case the mother is not ready to become pregnant in the present time or state. She may choose to try to get pregnant later and accordingly the preserved egg can be utilized.
It includes harvesting of eggs from the ovaries of the mother. These are then frozen on an unfertilized state. The frozen oocytes are stored for use in the future. It is quite different from embryo cryopreservation which is fertilized egg freezing in a fertilized state. Therefore, it doesn’t require sperm at this stage.
People opt for egg freezing due to a number of reasons like ongoing circumstances affecting fertility like autoimmune diseases, cancer (as radiation or chemotherapy can harm your fertility). Some people hope to preserve younger eggs if they wish to delay marriage and pregnancy . Egg freezing before treatment might enable you to have biological children when one is psychologically and mentally ready at a later stage in her life. Some people also want to consider an option for child with a selected sperm donor which they have not found yet.
Also, egg freezing cannot guarantee future pregnancy. Furthermore, there is the heightened risk of miscarriage due to advanced age as older eggs in mature women have higher miscarriage rates.
The process itself is done under the supervision of reproductive endocrinologists with screening blood tests for certain infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Then, one goes through an ovarian reserve test in order to determine the quantity and quality of the eggs. Also, results help in ascertaining how the ovaries will respond to fertility medication (ultrasound of the ovaries is done to observe ovarian function).
The egg freezing procedure comprises of three steps — ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and freezing. For ovarian stimulation, synthetic hormones are introduced in order to produce multiple eggs and prevent premature ovulation. The hormones (Gonadotropins) are shown to be safe. Stimulation is done under constant monitoring with serial ultrasound at fertility clinic itself . After 10 to 14 days, egg retrieval is done under through a process called ‘transvaginal ultrasound aspiration’ (an ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina to look for follicles). A suction device guided by a needle removes the egg from the follicle. It is a short day care procedure performed under anesthesia. Up to 15 eggs per cycle are retrieved to enhance the viability of the process. The next and final step is freezing of the harvested unfertilized eggs. The rapid cooling process used for egg freezing is called vitrification. There may be some post procedural issues like slight abdominal pain, for which the patient must contact the doctor.
Remember though, this fertility preservation technique comes down to choice and one has to decide if it is right and required based on individual’s or couple’s needs and reproductive experience. There are 30 to 60 percent chances of successful implantation, depending on your age at the time of egg freezing.