Egg freezing is a new medical technology that allows women to freeze some of their eggs to use for later. Let us discuss the basics of egg freezing and what every woman needs to know about it.
Experts have had the technology to freeze women’s eggs way back since the early 1980s. However, the technique did not work very well – egg-survival rates proved to be low. Eggs were frozen slowly and they spend a lot of time in a cold zone where ice crystals could form. Some eggs wouldn’t survive the thawing process since they are very fragile. Thanks to the power of advanced technology, we now have a method called cryopreservation known as ‘vitrification’ which was invented in Japan in the early 1990s. This allows us to achieve higher success rates with egg freezing. This rapid-freezing method uses a special ‘antifreeze’ solution that helps draw some water out of the egg, preventing ice crystals to form.
In the beginning of the menstrual cycle, daily injectable medications should be given for about 2 weeks. This is to stimulate the ovaries to mature eggs. To follow the maturation of the eggs, ovarian ultrasounds are done. When the eggs appear ready to be harvested, light sedation is given to the woman and a needle is used transvaginally to remove eggs from the ovary. The procedure takes about 30 minutes, and it is an out-patient procedure so the patient can go home on the same day. A woman can usually harvest about 5-20 eggs per month, depending on the woman’s age. Contrary to popular belief, a woman will not ‘lose’ eggs or menopause early if she goes through this process.
The Right Time
Studies show that it is reasonable for women in their late 20s or late 30s to consider having this procedure done. Women who are in their 30s are still good candidates, but they should be aware that they may need to have the procedure repeated 3 to 4 times in order to get sufficient eggs for a baby. It is also becoming an interesting option for women who want to delay childbearing. Egg freezing was initially for women who, at the moment, do not have a suitable male partner and do not want to rush getting pregnant with a wrong long-term partner. There is no age limit, per se, but women who are over 40 years old will have a much lower chance of achieving a pregnancy through this procedure.
For more questions and information about egg freezing and its wonders and benefits, you can consult Dr. Fay Weisberg, MD, FRCSC of First Steps Fertility.