Egg freezing is seen by some as a way to stop the biological clock, expand reproductive options and preserve the younger, possibly healthier eggs. And for many women looking to extend their childbearing years, it has become an increasingly attractive option.
What does egg freezing mean, exactly?
The process of egg freezing, or in medical terms, oöcyte and cryopreservation, involves stimulating the ovaries with hormones to produce multiple eggs, retrieving the eggs from the ovaries and taking them to the lab, where they are cooled to subzero temperatures to be thawed at a later date.
Why would a woman opt to freeze?
Some women choose to freeze their eggs for medical reasons. About three-quarters of the women who freeze their eggs do so because they don’t have a partner.
How invasive is the procedure, and how risky?
The process of retrieving eggs is identical to the first phase of In-Vitro Fertilisation, or IVF.
You are going to get anaesthesia and there will be a needle puncturing your vaginal wall.
What is the procedure?
The woman receives a round of hormone injections that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This stage involves frequent visits to the fertility clinic, about five visits in ten days, while the ovaries are regularly monitored by vaginal ultrasound. After roughly a week or two of hormone treatments, the eggs are retrieved.
The egg retrieval process takes about 20-30 minutes (depending on how many eggs there are to aspirate) and is done under mild anaesthesia or sedation. Using an ultrasound, the doctor guides a needle through the vagina to the ovarian follicle containing the egg. A suction device at the end of the needle removes the eggs from the follicles. Retrieving the eggs is technically not that different from getting blood drawn. A needle goes into the ovary and the eggs get gently aspirated out.
What are my chances of having a baby later if I freeze my eggs now?
The chance that a single frozen egg will lead to a live birth is about two to twelve percent, that’s why doctors often recommend having a couple dozen eggs frozen to maximize success.
Is a 35-year-old egg that’s been frozen really healthier than a 40-year-old egg that’s been freshly harvested?
It may be hard to believe that an egg removed from its natural state and frozen for years could more readily lead to a baby than a slightly older egg that’s remained inside your body.
Egg production starts declining after age 35, so a woman in her late 30s or 40s may need to go through the hormone treatments and collection cycles several times. And not all the eggs will be good. Among women over 40, about 15 percent of the eggs produced will be normal.
The most important thing for eggs is time. The younger the egg, the healthier it is.