Definition - What does Egg Freezing mean?
Egg freezing is a method in which a woman’s sexual
reproductive cell, the egg, is preserved for future fertility treatments. Egg freezing capitalizes on capturing eggs at
a time when they are healthiest, before age or health conditions decrease their
quality or quantity. Once the eggs are
preserved, they may be used in the future in assisted reproductive technologies
(ART) to achieve a pregnancy.
Egg freezing may also be called oocyte cryopreservation or egg cryopreservation.
FertilitySmarts explains Egg Freezing
Women may elect to freeze their eggs for a variety of reasons:
- The need for cancer treatment that may damage reproductive abilities
- Degenerative ovarian disorders, or the need for an ovarian removal (oophorectomy)
- Prioritization of career, educational, or personal goals
- Health conditions
- The wish to delay child bearing for any other personal reason
The early stages of egg freezing are similar to early stages in vitro fertilization (IVF). An evaluation is completed of a woman’s ovarian reserve and general fertility health. In order for the egg freezing process to be successful, a woman’s eggs have to be in good health to begin with. This is largely dependent on a woman’s age.
Along with ovarian reserve, hormone levels including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) are analyzed. This is completed along with a test of the antral follicle count (AFC) to determine the number of remaining, viable follicles. Additionally, a woman is typically required to attend meetings with physicians and mental health specialists to ensure appropriateness and understanding of the procedure.
In order to stimulate ovulation that will produce multiple eggs in a single cycle, as opposed to the single egg produced naturally, ovulation induction medication is prescribed. Several weeks of hormonal medications, typically injections, are prescribed leading up to the egg retrieval process. This allows for a higher number of eggs available to store, increasing the chances of a successful survival and future treatment.
Following the retrieval, the eggs are injected with a liquid that serves as an “anti-freeze”. This process reduces the chances of ice crystals destroying or damaging the qualities of the egg. The eggs are then frozen through one of two methods: slow freezing or flash freezing, also known as viritifaction. Vitrification is the most advanced method, offering the highest level of usage and success.
The entire freezing process takes up to six weeks. However, the eggs may be frozen for up to ten years. At any point the eggs may be retrieved, thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus through ART procedures.