Egg Freezing (Oocyte Cryopreservation)
Still looking for the right mate, aiming to finish graduate school, or just wanting to wait a few more years as a single professional? There are myriad reasons for a woman to delay childbearing. Advanced Reproductive Center’s egg freezing program can preserve your eggs for future fertility.
The technical term for egg freezing is oocyte cryopreservation. There are many reasons women may want to preserve their fertility. Chemotherapy, ovarian surgery, and aging are a few examples of factors that 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 decrease with age. Egg freezing can also be used to preserve extra 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. To do so, we use fertility medications to stimulate a woman’s ovaries. 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. The other common method is usually referred to as a 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.
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. Also, someone who has not found the right person to build a family with cannot just snap her fingers and have that 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 sperm to create embryos, which are then frozen.
Cryopreserving ovarian tissue means removing and freezing a piece of the ovary. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation requires surgery to remove the tissue and then another surgery to replace the tissue. It is considered experimental and not an option for most women.
How much does egg freezing cost?
The cost of egg freezing varies dramatically. The process is similar to an IVF cycle, but the price is usually less. An IVF cycle is a little more involved because instead of simply freezing the eggs, the eggs are fertilized and the resulting embryos are cultured. However, since a limited number of eggs are obtained per cycle, sometimes more than one cycle is required to obtain a higher number of eggs. The number of eggs per cycle depends on multiple factors, including age, response to medication, and ovarian reserve.
For more questions about egg freezing and other fertility options, please call 312.485.4847 today.