Freezing Eggs For Future Fertility
For most women, fertility declines slowly with time and becomes significantly lower by their late 30s and early 40s. Freezing your eggs, which involves removing eggs from your ovaries and freezing them for later use, can help you preserve your ability to become pregnant in the future if you aren’t ready now.
Reasons you might consider a procedure to freeze your eggs include:
- You want to postpone pregnancy until you are older. You may not have found the right partner yet, or you might want more time to pursue your career before having children.
- You have a medical condition. Fertility after chemotherapy is a big concern for cancer patients and is one reason many women freeze their eggs. Treatments for medical conditions like sickle cell anemia and autoimmune diseases such as lupus can also affect your fertility.
- You want to use them for in vitro fertilization. Due to religious or ethical reasons, some women prefer egg freezing to embryo freezing when undergoing in vitro fertilization.
Egg Freezing Timeline
The most significant determining factor of a successful IVF pregnancy is your egg freezing timeline. Research from the Journal Fertility and Sterility shows that women who freeze their eggs by age 38 and use them at age 40 have a higher chance of having a baby than women who wait until age 40 to become pregnant either naturally or through in vitro fertilization. It is also a more cost-effective approach.
Egg Freezing Pregnancy Success Rates
Fertility experts do see a slightly greater success rate with embryo freezing versus egg freezing as the thawing process is a little simpler. However, embryo freezing requires you to have a partner at the time of freezing or a willingness to use a sperm donor.
In a study on the success of egg freezing, the highest probability of a live birth occurred when egg freezing occurred at age 34 years or younger. However, there was little benefit (versus no fertility preservation) for women ages 25-30 years. The study also showed that age 37 was the most cost-effective age for egg freezing since women had the highest chance of improving their likelihood for a live birth versus taking no fertility preservation action at that age.
Freezing Your Eggs: What Should You Expect?
Before you begin the procedure to freeze your eggs, you should consult with a fertility specialist. It’s important you have all the information you need to make the best decision for you.
Once you’ve decided to proceed, here’s what you can expect:
1. Ovarian Stimulation
Typically, your body develops a single egg every month. However, to encourage the development of multiple eggs, which can be removed all at once, you’ll need to take daily injectable hormone medications to stimulate egg growth.
During this time, you can also expect that your doctor will be monitoring you closely. You’ll need to have frequent blood tests to determine if the hormone medications are working or if adjustments are required. You’ll also have to have a vaginal ultrasound to monitor your eggs as they mature.
2. Egg Freezing Surgery
After 10–14 days of hormone medications, your eggs will be ready for retrieval. Your doctor will perform a safe, 15–20 minute egg retrieval surgery that is done under sedation to prevent discomfort. The surgery will be at our clinic.
During surgery, the doctor will guide a needle through the wall of the vagina in order to safely reach your ovaries to retrieve eggs. Eggs are removed through the needle with a small suction device. The surgery is not painful, since you are treated with sedation, and you can return home after the egg freezing procedure.
3. Freezing Eggs
After removing your eggs, the clinic will use liquid nitrogen to rapidly drop the temperature of the eggs to freeze them within seconds. This process is called vitrification. Eggs frozen by this modern method have a better chance of avoiding damage during the thawing process than eggs frozen by older methods.
Recovery After Egg Retrieval
You can expect to resume normal activities within a week of egg retrieval. However, your ovaries will still be enlarged, and it is possible you may have symptoms for approximately one week after, including:
- feelings of fullness, and
How Long Can Your Frozen Eggs Last?
Eggs can be frozen indefinitely or until you are ready to use them. How long you freeze your eggs will not affect your pregnancy success rate.
The egg freezing storage cost can vary but can be up to per year. It can also depend on how many eggs you store. If you have multiple rounds of egg freezing, your costs for storing more eggs may be higher.
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Risks of Freezing Eggs
The process of freezing eggs has been around long enough that it is no longer considered experimental and it is very safe. However, there are potential risks. These include:
- Side effects of hormone medication. The most common side effects of the medications given for egg freeze are irritation at the hormone injection site and bloating. There are other risks, which depend on your medical history. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the side-effects of hormone medication.
- Retrieval risks. In rare cases (less than one percent of the time), the egg retrieval needle can cause bleeding, infection, or damage to tissues surround the ovary like the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel. There are also risks associated with anesthesia. To keep anesthesia safe, we perform our egg retrievals under the care of a trained anesthesia provider.
- Success risks. While egg freezing can increase your chances of having a successful pregnancy at an older age, there is no guarantee. It is possible some of the eggs collected and frozen will not survive the thawing process. Other eggs may not fertilize or “take” during implantation into your uterus. To guard against these risks, some women choose to have multiple rounds of egg freezing.
If you would like to consult with a specialist about egg fertility options, make an appointment with one of our fertility specialists.