What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation gives women the opportunity for a pregnancy to occur in the future. The process involves harvesting, freezing, and storing eggs to later be used for in vitro fertilization once you are ready to have a baby.
During the egg freezing process, unfertilized eggs are extracted from the woman’s ovary in a surgical procedure, which requires sedation. Once the eggs are retrieved, they will become frozen in a process called vitrification to preserve them and prevent them from aging. Those frozen eggs are then safely stored until you are ready to get pregnant. Then, the eggs will be thawed and fertilized with sperm through in vitro fertilization.
Who Should Freeze Their Eggs?
There are many women and couples who decide to freeze eggs for a variety of different reasons. Egg freezing is a great option for someone who does not want to get pregnant now but would like the option to get pregnant in the future.
Some common reasons to consider freezing your eggs may include:
- A health condition or illness that may interfere with your ability to conceive, such as sickle cell anemia or an autoimmune disease.
- Receiving chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, which can impact your ability to get pregnant. Such treatments may compromise your fertility, so egg freezing before the treatment can increase your chances of being able to have biological children in the future.
- You may have personal or professional reasons. Knowing that freezing your eggs at a younger age can help to preserve the vitality of your eggs so that you are better able to conceive in the future, during a time you feel personally ready to become a mother.
- There are women that prefer to undergo in vitro fertilization with a frozen egg, rather than a frozen embryo, for religious and ethical reasons. Egg freezing, unlike embryo freezing, does not require sperm and is frozen unfertilized.
What are the risks?
Egg freezing can involve some health and emotional risks. The process of egg freezing does include hormone injections of a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which encourage the ovaries to produce more eggs. The use of these fertility drugs can help the retrieval of multiple eggs at once. Not always common but the use of fertility drugs can bring on side effects such as swelling, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rarely a life-threatening syndrome. The actual egg retrieval process can have complications. Although rare, the procedure can cause bleeding, infection, or damage to the blood vessels or areas such as the bowel or bladder.
Egg freezing can bring hope for a future pregnancy. However, it does not guarantee success. Many factors contribute to a successful birth, and the risk of a miscarriage largely depends on your age at the time in which your eggs are frozen. Typically the earlier you freeze your eggs in your life, the healthier and younger your eggs will be.
What can you expect after the egg freezing procedure?
Following the procedure, you may experience cramps and an achy feeling, but this is normal. At the discretion of your doctor, recovery is somewhere between a few days to a week. You should be able to resume normal activities and participate in your daily routines. It is advised to abstain from unprotected sex to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
At OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we understand that making decisions about freezing your eggs can be overwhelming. Contact us to schedule an appointment. Let’s discuss your options and find out what may be the best course of action for you.