When it comes to fertility, oocyte cryopreservation has given women more power over their bodies than ever before.
Oocyte cryopreservation, or “egg freezing”, is a process in which a woman’s eggs are preserved for a future use. Whether you’re concerned about your ever ticking biological clock or impending health complications, freezing your eggs is a viable way to ensure your fertility down the road.
There are a host of factors that can affect a woman’s ability to conceive, least of which being that a woman’s eggs are in limited supply. While men continue to make sperm throughout their lifetime, women are born with all the eggs they will ever produce. Sixty per cent of those eggs are lost before birth, and 80 per cent are gone before the time a female reaches puberty.
In addition, the quality of these eggs diminishes over time. While your fertility peaks in your early 20s, the health of your eggs rapidly begins to decline as you move into your 30s and 40s. In fact, by the time you are 35, your chances of becoming pregnant decrease by a whopping 50 per cent. Faced with these statistics, it’s easy to understand why a woman may want to increase her chances of mothering biological children.
While there is no way to slow down or stop the natural course of things, freezing your eggs for future use is a natural and pragmatic step for those women who wish to delay pregnancy. Recent scientific advances in egg freezing techniques have greatly improved the chances that frozen eggs will survive thawing, and are more likely to result in achieving a full-term pregnancy.
How Does It Work
A woman who decides to freeze her eggs will undergo the same treatment and hormone-injection process as those women undergoing in-vitro fertilization, with the one difference being once the eggs are retrieved, they are frozen or “banked” for future use.
It takes about 10 to 14 days of injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple, mature eggs. Once it has been determined that the eggs have adequately matured, a retrieval procedure is scheduled in order to have these removed with a needle placed through the vagina and under ultrasound guidance. This procedure is done under conscious sedation and is not generally painful. The eggs are then immediately frozen. Women who wish to freeze their eggs should do so before they turn 38. Egg freezing does not guarantee a pregnancy, and the number of eggs needed for one pregnancy increases with age.
Once the patient is ready to attempt pregnancy, her eggs are first thawed and then fertilized by injecting a single sperm into its cytoplasm, and is then transferred into the uterus as an embryo.
Is Anyone A Candidate?
While a physician is not able to determine the health of an individual’s eggs, there are a number of tests that can help predict whether she will be an ideal candidate for having her eggs frozen. That said, though this technology is quite safe, most fertility specialists recommend the process be reserved for those women who are more likely to experience a real decline in the fertility in the future.
Young women have a number of years ahead of them before they can expect a decline in fertility, but those women in their early to mid 30s who are not planning on starting a family in the next few years are excellent candidates for this procedure. Of course, if you are a younger woman with a familial history of decrease in ovarian function, have been diagnosed HIV or will be undergoing chemotherapy, egg freezing may be an option for you.