A woman produces a finite number of eggs during her lifetime. Both the number and the quality of these eggs starts to decline as she ages. This is where egg freezing, an oft-used method of fertility preservation, comes into picture. If you are not mentally, physically, emotionally or psychologically ready to grow or start your family yet, egg freezing provides the freedom to choose the timing, along with a certain level of surety of achieving pregnancy.
What is egg freezing and how is it done?
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Also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing is the process of harvesting eggs from a woman’s ovaries and freezing them till the time she is ready to try to get pregnant.
Before the procedure
Prior to the retrieval of the eggs from the female body, injectable hormones known as gonadotropins are given to the woman for a period of 10 to 12 days on a daily basis. These injections stimulate ovulation and help ovaries produce many mature eggs at once instead of just one
During the procedure
The procedure is conducted with the woman being in a sedated state. In this state, a transvaginal ultrasound will be done to locate the mature eggs in the ovaries. These eggs will then be extracted by inserting a large needle through the vagina. The eggs are aspirated into the needle and collected.
The procedure may cause some pelvic discomfort and a feeling of belly fullness afterwards.
After the procedure
These extracted eggs will now be stored at the ultra-cold temperature of -385 degrees Fahrenheit in cryopreservation tanks chilled with liquid nitrogen. During the duration of the storage, anti-freeze cryoprotectant solutions are used to replace the egg cell’s natural liquid and keep its structure intact. When you are ready to use these eggs for pregnancy, they will be thawed and fertilized in a lab, and the resulting embryo would be transferred into your uterus or the uterus of the surrogate mother, if that is the case.
When can you consider egg freezing?
- To postpone childbearing to later in life
- Disease treatments that might severely impact fertility. For instance, chemotherapy, radiation and pelvic surgery all pose the risk of infertility.
- If you are trying to coordinate the timing of family planning with your career planning
- In case of IVF treatment
- If you are still waiting for the right partner to come along.
What is the ideal time window for egg freezing?
The ideal time to freeze your eggs is before your mid-30s.
How much time is taken in egg freezing?
The egg freezing preparatory process takes about two weeks. After that, the procedure may be completed in a couple of days.
How many eggs can a woman produce during a cycle of fertility drugs to produce?
The number can range from as low as 2 to as high as 40. Among women in her late 20s to early 30s, the normal range is 10-20.
Does egg freezing guarantee pregnancy in future?
No, cryopreservation shouldn’t be seen as a guarantee of a baby.