The procedure for freezing a woman’s eggs is commonly known as egg freezing, social freezing, and human oocyte cryopreservation. Egg freezing was developed as a method of fertility preservation. This is beneficial for a preserving a woman’s eggs who is being treated for a serious illness, such as cancer, and needs to delay starting a family. Cryopreservation is not only effective in oncofertility treatments; the technique is also available for women who want to delay childbearing or are concerned about her fertility.
Benefits of Egg Freezing
There are many reasons why, as a woman, you may choose to delay having children. You may have career or educational goals to meet. You may wish to travel, achieve financial independence, or simply enjoy your relationship before starting a family. Freezing removes the pressure of the ‘biological clock’ by providing an option to freeze eggs while you have good ovarian reserve and egg quality. You can then use those eggs at a later date when your personal circumstances are right for motherhood, even if your age would make natural conception difficult.
When Should I Freeze My Eggs?
The simple answer to this question is: “As soon as possible!” As women age, the quality and quantity of egg production declines; gradually while in her 20’s and then dramatically once she reaches 35 years old. At each menstruation, several hundreds of her eggs die. Each woman is born with a fixed number of eggs and as she ages, she will never produce more. Because of this, women in their early 30’s who are not yet ready to be parents might strongly consider social egg freezing as a method to preserve their current level of fertility. While it is true that some women are able to have natural births even in their forties and beyond, social freezing your eggs at a younger age allows for more potential treatment options as you age. There are certain hormone tests that your Aspire physician can perform to get an idea of how many eggs your ovaries might produce when stimulated with IVF medications. However, these tests are not able to estimate the number of eggs a woman may have at the time of testing. Commonly known as ovarian reserve tests, these tests are a useful tool, but not a crystal ball. Since there is no way to tell how many eggs a woman has, this is another reason why women should consider egg freezing at as young an age as possible. Women who are attempting to get pregnant will have better outcomes before age 35 than after. The same thing is true for egg freezing: women considering social freezing can enhance their chances of success by completing a social freeze before age 35.
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
As part of the egg freezing process, you will undergo the same cycle of hormone medications that are used for IVF treatment process. You will have all the same appointments, tests, and procedures that will cause your body to produce as many healthy eggs as you can safely produce at the time of egg retrieval. This process is called ovarian stimulation. During the stimulation process, the clinical team at Aspire will closely monitor your hormone levels to ensure that your body responds effectively and safely to IVF medications. After egg retrieval, eggs are flash frozen through a process known as vitrification. Egg cells, knowns as oocytes, are the largest cells produced in the body, and contain a high volume of water. When frozen through normal processes, the water inside of our cells (including oocytes) forms into jagged ice crystals that destroy the surrounding tissue and compromise cell integrity. In order for oocytes to survive the freezing, the thawing process, and later be viable for IVF, additional steps must be taken to prevent ice crystal formation. This is primarily accomplished through the use of cryoprotectants which take the place of water in the cells and prevent the formation of ice crystals. Cryopreserved eggs are then vitrified, which physically transforms eggs into a solid, stable state. The resulting glass-like cell is devoid of ice crystals and can be stored indefinitely in our cryopreservation tanks.
Is Egg Freezing Safe?
Egg freezing was first successfully used in IVF in 1999. Since that time, numerous clinical and academic studies have been performed to assess the impact of vitrification on outcomes in IVF patients. As vitrification techniques have improved, these studies have found that egg freezing is safe and in no way impairs the outcome of future IVF attempts. In fact, when used with a standard IVF cycle, vitrification has been shown to improve outcomes, likely by allowing the patient’s body time to normalize her hormone levels after IVF stimulation. Aspire’s leading team of embryologist to use the latest vitrification techniques to ensure the best possible outcomes for all social freezing patients.