In recent years, egg freezing has become a popular option for women who want to preserve their fertility and extend their chances of having biological children in the future. This revolutionary technique allows women to freeze and store their eggs until they are ready to conceive. If you're considering egg freezing or just curious about the process, this article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about egg freezing, including details about the procedure itself.
What is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is a medical procedure that involves retrieving a woman's eggs, freezing them, and storing them for future use. The process begins with a comprehensive evaluation of the woman's reproductive health, including hormone testing and an ultrasound to assess the ovarian reserve (the number of remaining eggs). If the ovarian reserve is deemed sufficient, the woman can proceed with the egg freezing process.
How is The Egg Freezing Procedure Performed?
Ovarian Stimulation: Before egg retrieval, the woman undergoes ovarian stimulation, which involves administering fertility medications, typically injectables, to encourage the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Throughout this process, the woman's progress is closely monitored through blood tests and ultrasounds to adjust the medication dosage as needed.
- • Egg Retrieval: Once the eggs have reached an appropriate size and maturity, the egg retrieval procedure is scheduled. It is a minimally invasive procedure that is usually performed under light sedation or anesthesia. A thin, ultrasound-guided needle is inserted through the vaginal wall to access the ovaries. The eggs are then aspirated from the ovarian follicles using a gentle suction process.
- • Egg Freezing: After retrieval, the eggs are immediately taken to the laboratory, where they are carefully evaluated for maturity and quality. The mature eggs are then prepared for cryopreservation.
Two common methods of freezing are used:
- • Slow Freezing: The eggs are gradually cooled and frozen using specialized equipment to protect them from ice crystal formation.
- • Vitrification: In this newer and more widely used technique, the eggs are rapidly frozen, preventing ice crystal formation and increasing the chances of survival after thawing.
• Egg Storage: Once frozen, the eggs are safely stored in cryopreservation tanks filled with liquid nitrogen, which keeps them at an extremely low temperature. These tanks are designed to maintain the eggs' viability for an extended period.
How Successful is The egg Freezing Procedure?
The success of egg freezing largely depends on the woman's age at the time of freezing. Younger women generally have higher success rates, as their eggs have a better chance of surviving the freezing and thawing process. Additionally, the number of eggs frozen can also impact the chances of a successful pregnancy in the future. It is essential to discuss success rates with a fertility specialist, as they can provide personalized information based on the woman's specific circumstances.
What Happens When a Woman is Ready To Use Her Frozen Eggs?
When a woman is ready to conceive using her frozen eggs, the eggs are thawed in the laboratory. A highly skilled embryologist examines the thawed eggs for viability. The viable eggs are then fertilized with sperm through a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This involves injecting a single sperm directly into each egg to facilitate fertilization. After fertilization, the resulting embryos are monitored for development. Once they reach a suitable stage, one or more embryos are transferred into the woman's uterus during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.