Egg freezing, also known as cryopreservation of mature oocytes, is a method used to preserve a woman’s ability to become pregnant in the future.
Eggs collected from your ovaries are frozen unfertilized and stored for later use. a frozen egg can be thawed, combined with sperm in a laboratory, and implanted in the uterus (in vitro fertilization).
Your doctor can help you understand how egg freezing works, the potential risks, and whether this method of fertility preservation is right for you based on your needs and reproductive history.
why is it done
Egg freezing might be an option if you’re not ready to get pregnant now but want to make sure you can get pregnant later.
Unlike freezing fertilized eggs (embryo cryopreservation), egg freezing does not require sperm because the eggs are not fertilized before they are frozen. however, as with embryo freezing, you will need to use fertility drugs to get her to ovulate and produce multiple eggs to retrieve them.
You might consider egg freezing if:
- have a condition or circumstance that may affect your fertility. These may include sickle cell anemia, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, and gender diversity, such as being transgender.
- You need treatment for cancer or another disease that may affect your ability to get pregnant. Certain medical treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, can harm your fertility. egg freezing before treatment may allow you to have biological children later.
- You are about to undergo in vitro fertilization. When undergoing in vitro fertilization, some people prefer egg freezing to embryo freezing for religious or ethical reasons.
- You want to keep your eggs younger now for future use. Freezing your eggs at a younger age may help you get pregnant when you’re ready.
- conditions related to the use of fertility drugs. Rarely, the use of injectable fertility drugs, such as synthetic follicle-stimulating hormone or luteinizing hormone to induce ovulation, can cause the ovaries to become swollen and painful shortly after ovulation or egg retrieval (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. even rarer is the possibility of developing a more severe form of the syndrome that can be life-threatening.
- Complications of the egg retrieval procedure. Rarely, the use of an aspiration needle to retrieve eggs causes bleeding, infection, or damage to the intestine, bladder, or a blood vessel.
- emotional risks. Egg freezing may provide hope for a future pregnancy, but there is no guarantee of success.
ovarian reserve test. To determine the quantity and quality of your eggs, your doctor may test the concentration of follicle-stimulating hormone and estradiol in your blood the third day of your menstrual cycle. the results can help predict how your ovaries will respond to fertility drugs.
another blood test and ultrasound of the ovaries may be used to get a more complete picture of ovarian function.
- infectious disease screening. You will be screened for certain infectious diseases, such as hiv and hepatitis b and c.
- Ovarian stimulation medications. You may inject medications such as follitropin alfa or beta (follistim aq, gonal-f) or menotropins (menopur).
- Medications to prevent premature ovulation. Your doctor may prescribe an injectable gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist, such as leuproline acetate (lupron depot), or a gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist, such as cetrorelix (cetrotide).
- fever greater than 101.5 f (38.6 c)
- severe abdominal pain
- weight gain of more than 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) in 24 hours
- heavy vaginal bleeding: filling more than two sanitary pads per hour
- difficulty urinating
You can use your frozen eggs to try to conceive a child with sperm from a partner or a sperm donor. a donor can be known or anonymous. the embryo can also be implanted in another person’s uterus to carry the pregnancy (gestational carrier).
Egg freezing carries several risks, including:
If you use your frozen eggs to have a child, your risk of miscarriage will be based primarily on your age at the time the eggs were frozen. older women have higher rates of miscarriage, mainly because they have older eggs.
Research to date has not shown an increased risk of birth defects for babies born as a result of egg freezing. however, more research is needed on the safety of egg freezing.
how do you prepare
If you are considering freezing your eggs, seek out a fertility clinic with experience in the field. the experts are commonly known as reproductive endocrinologists.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology provide information about us online. pregnancy and live birth rates from fertility clinics, although data related to pregnancies with frozen eggs are limited. Keep in mind, however, that a clinic’s success rate depends on many factors, including the age of the women it treats.
If you are concerned about the expense of egg freezing, ask about the costs associated with each step of the procedure and annual storage fees.
Before you begin the egg freezing process, you’ll likely have some screening blood tests, including:
what you can expect
Egg freezing consists of several steps: ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and freezing.
You will take synthetic hormones to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs, instead of the single egg that normally develops monthly. Medications that may be needed include:
During treatment, your doctor will monitor you. You will have blood tests to measure your response to ovarian stimulation medications. Estrogen levels generally rise as follicles develop, and progesterone levels remain low until after ovulation.
Follow-up visits will also include a vaginal ultrasound, a procedure that uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of the ovaries, to monitor the development of fluid-filled sacs where eggs (follicles) mature.
When the follicles are ready for egg retrieval, usually after 10 to 14 days, an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (pregnyl, ovidrel) or another medication can help the eggs mature.
Egg retrieval is performed under sedation, usually in your doctor’s office or clinic. A common approach is transvaginal ultrasound aspiration, during which an ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina to identify the follicles.
Then a needle is guided through the vagina and into a follicle. A suction device attached to the needle is used to remove the egg from the follicle. multiple eggs can be retrieved, and studies show that the more eggs that are retrieved, up to 15 per cycle, the greater the chance of delivery.
After the egg retrieval, you may have cramps. the feeling of fullness or pressure may continue for weeks because the ovaries remain enlarged.
Shortly after the unfertilized eggs are collected, they are cooled to sub-zero temperatures to preserve them for future use. the composition of an unfertilized egg makes it slightly more difficult to freeze and lead to a successful pregnancy than the composition of a fertilized egg (embryo).
The process most commonly used to freeze eggs is called vitrification. Rapid cooling uses high concentrations of substances that help prevent the formation of ice crystals during the freezing process (cryoprotectants).
after the procedure
You can usually resume your normal activities within a week of egg retrieval. avoid unprotected sex to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have:
When you want to use your frozen eggs, they will be thawed, fertilized with sperm in a laboratory, and implanted in your uterus or that of a gestational carrier.
Your health care team may recommend the use of a fertilization technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In ICSI, a single healthy sperm is injected directly into each mature egg.
The chances of getting pregnant after implantation are about 30 to 60 percent, depending on your age at the time of egg freezing. The older you are at the time of egg freezing, the less likely you are to have a live birth in the future.