Many of us have heard of oocyte cryopreservation (egg cell freezing) because of how popular it's become among famous personalities in recent years. Sofia Vergara from the hit TV show Modern Family, pop singer Rita Ora and Celine Dion have all undergone the procedure, certainly not because it was trendy, but because it assures that no matter what may happen to them in the meantime, they'll still have the opportunity to reproduce using their own eggs and have their own biological children sometime in the future.
Human oocyte cryopreservation is a process where a woman's eggs are extracted and preserved for potential future use. The treatment originated in the 1960s as an experiment concerning the eggs of various non-human mammals. It has since evolved to incorporate human eggs and grown in popularity as word of the procedure continues to spread.
Egg freezing didn't really start to become well-known until 2014, when some of the world's top tech companies, Apple, Facebook, and Google, began announcing they would be offering egg freezing for their female employees as part of their benefits package.
The success of oocyte cryopreservation is highly dependent on age, as the number and quality of eggs extracted are greatly influenced by the age of the woman involved. There is a fertility timeline with different rates of successful live births among females of the following age brackets:
Age 30 and under: At least 12 eggs are required to have a 65% to 85% chance of a successful pregnancy.
Age 31 - 35: : 12 to 24 eggs are required to have the same 65% to 85% chance of a successful conception.
Age 35 and older: 24 eggs or more are required to have the same 65% to 85% chance of a successful conception.
The bottom line is that the younger you are, the better the quality of your eggs and the higher the chance of success. In some ways it's also less expensive because of the lower number of eggs you need to produce.
Your doctor will first determine the quality and quantity of your eggs through Ovarian Reserve Testing. There will be a screening for any infectious diseases you might be carrying. Your doctor will monitor your progress during the preparation stages by conducting multiple blood testings and ultrasound procedures. You will be injected with hormones to stimulate your ovaries to produce more eggs, prevent premature ovulation and help the eggs mature.
Once the eggs are ready, there is a retrieval process where you will be sedated while your doctor retrieves your eggs from its follicles. Immediately following the retrieval of your eggs, they will be stored in a freezer at subzero temperatures along with certain cryoprotectant substances that help to preserve eggs over an extended period. At this point, you'll need to rest for an entire week before resuming your regular activities.
Advantages of Egg Freezing:
You can postpone becoming a mother until you feel you're ready.
You will have more freedom to focus on your career and other important life choices because of the significantly reduced pressure you'll face with respect to having children while you're still young. With oocyte cryopreservation you're eggs remain young and healthy even after several years in the freezer.
If you need to undergo certain medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, which can negatively affect fertility and the ability to reproduce naturally, freezing your eggs in advance of the treatment will enable you to have children regardless of the outcome.
You can donate your eggs should you never choose to use them, or simply have them discarded.
Egg freezing can function as a “pregnancy insurance" of sorts if other females in your bloodline have tended to enter into menopause prematurely.
Not 100% successful in every situation. In fact, the odds of a successful pregnancy resulting after egg freezing still remain relatively low, all things considered.
While rare, egg freezing can potentially present a few fairly serious health risks.
Time-consuming. Numerous visits to the doctor are required throughout the entire preparation period.
It's expensive. At best, the procedure will cost several thousands of dollars, and at worst, if multiple attempts are required, as they often are, the costs can easily climb upwards of $30,000.
Frozen eggs have a lower success rate than embryo freezing or eggs that are fresh from the womb.
WRITTEN BYChris Barry