Egg Freezing (oocyte cryopreservation)
The technical term for egg freezing is oocyte cryopreservation. Egg freezing is most commonly used to try and preserve future fertility. There are many reasons women may want to preserve their fertility. For instance, chemotherapy, ovarian surgery and aging are a few examples of factors which can significantly decrease fertility. As women age the number of eggs in the ovaries decreases as does the quality of the eggs. Therefore, fertility rates and success rates with fertility treatment significantly decreases with age. Egg freezing can also be utilized to cryopreserve excess eggs from an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. This can minimize or eliminate the need to cryopreserve embryos.
How is egg freezing done?
The first step in egg freezing is obtaining the eggs or oocytes. A woman usually produces one egg a month. For egg freezing we want to obtain a larger number of eggs. In order to obtain an increase in eggs we use fertility medications to stimulate a woman’s ovaries so that the eggs grow and develop. Once the eggs have reached the mature stage we do an egg retrieval procedure. This is the same procedure that is done in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. However, in an IVF cycle, we fertilize the eggs to create embryos. In an egg freezing cycle, we freeze the eggs before fertilization. There are several ways to freeze eggs. One is a flash freeze method called vitrification; while the other common method is usually referred to as slow freeze. Once the eggs are frozen they are stored for future use. When pregnancy is desired the eggs are thawed and fertilized. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus with the goal of achieving a pregnancy.
Are there alternatives to egg freezing?
The alternatives to egg freezing include trying to conceive right away, cryopreserving embryos or cryopreserving ovarian tissue. Trying to conceive right away is not an option for a lot of women. For instance, someone with a newly diagnosed cancer cannot delay her treatment in order to get pregnant and have a baby. Also, someone who has not found the right person to build a family with cannot just snap her fingers and have the person appear. Embryo cryopreservation is an option for some women who want to “preserve” their fertility for the future and have a source for sperm readily available. The sperm source can be a male partner or donor. Embryo cryopreservation is the process of stimulating the growth of multiple eggs which are fertilized with a sperm to create embryos. The resulting embryos are cryopreserved. This process differs from oocyte cryopreservation in that in oocyte cryopreservation, the eggs are cryopreserved before they are fertilized. Cryopreserving ovarian tissue means removing and freezing a piece of the ovary. It is considered experimental. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation requires surgery to remove the tissue and then another surgery to replace the tissue. Because it is less proven and more invasive than the alternatives ovarian tissue cryopreservation is not the option of choice for most women.
How much does egg freezing cost?
The cost of egg freezing varies dramatically. Since the egg freezing process is similar to an IVF cycle the prices are usually similar as well. An IVF cycle is usually a little more involved because instead of simply freezing the eggs, the egg are fertilized and the resulting embryos are cultured. Therefore, one egg freezing cycle is less than one IVF cycle. However since a limited number of eggs are obtained per cycle, sometimes more than one cycle is required in order to obtain a higher number of eggs. The number of eggs that can be obtained per cycle depends on multiple factors including, age, response to medication and ovarian reserve.
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To learn if egg freezing might be right for you, contact the Advanced Reproductive Center. To schedule an appointment call us at 815-229-1700, or fill out the form below and we will contact you.