Freezing their eggs gives women the opportunity to postpone becoming a parent until they feel it is the right time. When considering the egg freezing experience, many patients want an overview of the medical process, including what happens once eggs are frozen.
Why Freeze Your Eggs?
Freezing a woman’s eggs is a way to preserve her fertility. The eggs present when a female is born are the entire amount she will ever produce.
Most individuals weighing fertility preservation consider a pregnancy currently inconvenient or medically unwise. Treatments such as chemotherapy can eliminate pregnancy as a possibility.
Eggs a woman releases during her 20s or 30s typically represent a better quality than those released when she is older. Freezing eggs preserves female fertility at the current age while offering the opportunity to become a mother later.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, freezing a woman’s eggs delivers a pregnancy rate of 59 percent. It achieves a 26 percent live birth rate.
The Egg Freezing Process
NYU Langone Health indicates that freezing eggs is a four-stage process. The first step is an initial consultation with a physician who is a reproductive specialist. The practice provides detailed information regarding the freezing process, medications required, and handling of eggs.
The second phase is ovulation induction. Prescribed fertility medications stimulate the patient’s ovaries to mature multiple eggs simultaneously. The odds of a future pregnancy parallel the number of eggs available to be fertilized. This part of the process is very similar to that associated with traditional in vitro fertilization. When the patient has cancer, the practice tailors the stimulation protocol to the woman’s health needs.
Once the eggs are ready for retrieval, the doctor harvests them. This third part of the process takes only a few minutes. The physician gently suctions eggs from their associated follicles, then inserts them into test tubes. These eggs go to a laboratory, where they are evaluated as to their freezing suitability.
Finally, the physician then freezes any eggs that have not been fertilized. Sometimes the intention is to fertilize eggs with sperm to form embryos prior to storing the eggs. Unfertilized eggs are frozen the same day they are extracted from the patient. Embryo freezing occurs once the physician has confirmed fertilization. The timing is typically the day after retrieval of eggs or at the blastocyst stage, between five and seven days following egg harvesting. It is possible to preserve a combination of eggs as well as embryos for future use. Genetic screening is available once an embryo has been created.
The practice must dehydrate eggs earmarked for freezing since each is almost half water. Flash freezing can maintain the quality of stored eggs for up to a decade. Once a frozen egg has been fertilized, the physician transfers it to the patient’s uterus.