Egg/oocyte freezing, also known as cryopreservation, is a method that involves storing a woman’s unfertilized eggs at a relatively younger age for future use. She can then conceive at a later age. These eggs are stored at -1960 C thereby maintaining their quality for several years. Usually, 10-20 eggs are preserved.
Who should opt for egg freezing?
- Women who are not ready to conceive at a younger age due to personal or professional reasons.
- If a woman wants to have a second or third child at a later age.
- Women have cancer and on treatment like chemotherapy or radiation which can affect the reproductive organs.
- Those who are unwilling to preserve frozen embryos out of ethical/religious reasons
- Women who have a family history of early menopause or premature ovarian failure can preserve their eggs before the eggs get exhausted.
What is the ideal age for egg freezing?
Women who are below 38 years old preferably between their 20s – early 30s are perfect for oocyte freezing. The egg quality and number are optimal during this phase.
What is the process of oocyte freezing?
- Hormone levels- Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Antimullerian Hormone, are assessed along with the antral follicle count.
- Hormone injections and birth control pills are administered for a couple of weeks to stimulate the ovaries to ripen more eggs ( similar to IVF cycle)
- Mature eggs are then removed using a needle passed through the vagina via ultrasound guidance.
- The eggs are immediately frozen/ cryopreserved either through slow freezing process or flash freezing process known as vitrification where the water from the egg cell is replaced by anti-freeze to prevent crystal formation. These are stored in cryobanks.
- When the patient is ready to conceive, these eggs are warmed and fertilised by injecting a sperm with a needle by a procedure known as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) to form an embryo followed by its transfer into the uterus.
How safe is this process?
- The process hasn’t reported any significant side effects so far for either the mother or the baby born from the egg used after egg freezing
- The rate of chromosomal defects, birth defects or anomalies is the same as in natural pregnancies.
- The complications of pregnancy didn’t increase after egg freezing.
- Egg freezing helps in prolonging the fertility of the woman allowing her to have her genetic child at the time she desires.
- As age advances, the chances of a genetically unhealthy child or miscarriage increases due to decline in the quality of the eggs. Oocyte Preservation stores the eggs at a time when the woman is in an optimal state of her reproductive life thus ensuring the quality of the eggs.
- Egg freezing is an expensive procedure
- The process can be emotionally stressful
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