A woman’s chance of pregnancy decreases with age as the quality and quantity of egg reserve begins to reduce from her late thirties. Deferring motherhood with egg freezing technology is one of the options that has helped woman extend their fertility and have children later in life. Egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation is a method of assisted reproductive technology (ART) for fertility preservation, where healthy eggs from the ovary of a woman are extracted and frozen for future use.
Am I a candidate? At what age should I start to consider?
Egg freezing is not for everyone. This technology should be considered in the following cases:
- Women delaying motherhood for personal reasons, such as to pursue their careers, education and other goals
- Undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, that can harm fertility
- At risk for premature ovarian failure (early menopause)
Freezing your eggs at an early age is highly recommended as the eggs are viable and of good quality. Women in their early to mid-thirties are good candidates.
What is the optimal number of eggs to be frozen?
It is advisable for woman to freeze about 20 to 30 eggs.
Will I reduce my available eggs by freezing now?
No, freezing eggs now will not reduce the number of available eggs. Every month, one egg matures. However, medications can trigger the maturation of many eggs for retrieval.
Can the eggs’ health be tested?
Before freezing, your doctor conducts a test called the ovarian reserve test to determine the quality and quantity of eggs present in your ovaries. Other tests can be performed to detect infectious diseases.
How are the eggs retrieved?
Your doctor prescribes medication at the beginning of your menstrual cycle to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. The development of follicles (fluid-filled cysts in which the egg matures) is monitored by vaginal ultrasound. After 8 to 14 days, medication is injected to mature the eggs. The egg retrieval procedure is performed on an outpatient basis under sedation. Your doctor inserts an ultrasound probe into the vagina, to allow the doctor to detect the follicles. A needle along with a suction device is guided through the vagina, into the follicle to remove the mature egg. Within 30 minutes, multiple eggs can be removed from the follicle.
Where will the eggs be stored?
Immediately after the eggs are collected they are frozen in liquid nitrogen to stop all biological activity. Eggs are either stored by slow freezing or vitrification (fast freezing) method.
Are there risks associated with egg freezing?
As with any procedure, egg freezing may involve certain risks and complications which include hyperstimulation syndrome (swollen and painful ovaries), which can cause symptoms such as bloating, vomiting, mild abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and in severe cases shortness of breath and rapid weight gain. Other rare complications of the egg retrieval procedure include infection, bleeding, and bladder, bowel or blood vessel damage. There may be a certain degree of emotional risk involved with the egg freezing procedure as it may sometimes provide false hope.
How long can the eggs be stored?
Healthy eggs can be stored for around 10 years in liquid nitrogen.
What if I don’t need them any longer?
You can either sell or donate unused eggs to an egg bank, infertile women and to research.
What is the cost?
The cost of the egg freezing procedure varies greatly from clinic to clinic. For more details on the cost, reimbursements and insurance coverage of the procedure, please consult your doctor.