What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing is a medical process that allows women to have their eggs harvested, frozen and stored for future use.
A woman can freeze her eggs in order to prolong her ability to have a child.
Egg freezing is a procedure that allows women to store eggs for future use. The process of egg freezing can be done at any age, but the younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the more likely they will survive their storage period and result in pregnancy later. For example, women in their 20s have a much greater chance of having a successful pregnancy with eggs that were frozen in their 20s than women who freeze their eggs in their 30s. This is because as women get older, so do their eggs, making them more prone to mutations and other abnormalities that may make implantation difficult or impossible. The FDA has approved egg freezing for up to 10 years, so it’s safe to assume your frozen eggs will hold up if stored for less time than that.
Freezing eggs is an option for women who are not at the point where they want to conceive, but may want to in the future.
Egg freezing is an option for women who are not at the point where they wish to conceive, but may want to conceive in the future. Sometimes, a woman will make this decision if her ovarian reserve (the quantity of eggs present in her ovaries) is depleting faster than would be typical for her age. It may also be recommended for women who have social or health concerns that could delay trying to conceive until later in life. As this process does involve stimulating your ovaries with medication, there can be some side effects including bloating and emotional changes during hormone therapy.
Women typically begin considering egg freezing because of age.
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Another reason for egg freezing is if a woman has been diagnosed with a medical condition that will affect her fertility.
If you or your partner have been diagnosed with a medical condition that will affect or reduce fertility, you may want to consider egg freezing.
In addition to the cancer treatments mentioned above, there are a number of other conditions and procedures that can make ovulation difficult or impossible, including:
- Certain cancers such as ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, vulvar cancer and vaginal cancer
- Bilateral oophorectomy (the removal of both ovaries)
- Pelvic radiation therapy (radiation directed at the pelvis)
There are some similarities and differences among egg freezing clinics across the U.S., but there are also general steps involved.
If you’re interested in egg freezing, the first place to start is with a fertility clinic and doctor. Every clinic’s process is a little different, but there are general steps involved:
- A consultation with a doctor to establish a plan that’s right for you. The doctor will order some blood tests (for example, an AMH test, which measures your hormone levels) and perform an ultrasound to evaluate your ovaries and uterus. If those results are normal, you’ll receive a prescription for fertility medication.
- You’ll be given fertility medicine to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This medicine is given through shots (usually self-administered) that take a few weeks to complete. During this time you’ll need to get blood tests and ultrasounds again at the clinic so the doctor can monitor how your body is reacting.
Here comes the tricky part: Once it looks like your eggs have grown enough, you’ll have another ultrasound and blood test before taking another shot (again usually self-administered). This final shot will actually release all of the mature eggs from your ovaries at once so they can be retrieved by way of an outpatient procedure.*
You can go through fertility treatments and freeze your eggs in order to ensure that you have a chance to have children later on.
The good news is that the procedure is available to most women of childbearing age—and it’s not expensive. The bad news is that the process isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be used as a means of postponing or avoiding having children. Freezing your eggs can only help you in certain circumstances, and if done for the wrong reasons, it won’t be beneficial at all.
Don’t freeze your eggs if:
• You aren’t ready to have kids yet. If you aren’t ready to start a family now, egg freezing won’t change that fact; you will still have plenty of time later on to decide what you want to do. If you are putting off having babies for personal reasons (e.g., career goals), then egg freezing will not make any difference in your plans for the future.
• You don’t have a partner with whom to share your biological children. There are many ways through which women can become pregnant without being in a romantic relationship with someone else; however, none of these methods are guaranteed to work or easy enough to do on a whim (although some may come close). The best chances of becoming pregnant via artificial insemination involve using sperm from a known donor, whether that person is an acquaintance or friend (known) or an anonymous donor (unknown). Even this method has an estimated 20 percent success rate per cycle at best—and there’s no guarantee that your body will react well to hormonal changes during the process, which could cause side effects like mood swings and depression. It also puts your health at risk in other ways: for example, according to recent studies by Harvard Medical School researchers published in JAMA Internal Medicine.”
There are also clinical trials for IVF.
If you aren’t successful with an egg freezing cycle, there are other options. Your clinic may be conducting clinical trials for IVF that you can participate in.
IVF is a process where the sperm and egg are combined in a laboratory dish, then the embryos created from that procedure are transferred to your uterus (womb). IVF is often used when other fertility treatments have failed or when there is a genetic problem that could be passed on to the baby.