Egg freezing

Egg freezing: Procedure & Risks

Planning and preserving the reproductive potential has become important for women when it comes to planning a family. In such planning, you might not need a child now but might need one in future. To that end, there have been several things developed in order to preserve the reproductive potential that a woman has an egg freezing is one of those.

In this particular process:

  • The eggs are first harvested from the ovaries and then

  • They are frozen while they are infertile and then

  • Stored for usage later.

  • Once you need the eggs, they can be thawed and then combined with the sperm in the lab.

  • The resultant is then implanted into your uterus.

Why opt for this procedure and why you might consider freezing your egg?

Pregnancy is a matter of concern when you think that you are mentally not prepared to have a child yet. However, there comes a time when you might desire to have one. 

That being said, the human body can only hold on to its reproductive capabilities for so long. To that end, egg freezing is a way to ensure that an egg is still present for the point when you are not able to get pregnant. This form of freezing does not need a sperm because the eggs are not fertilized when they are frozen. That being said, ovulation is required and to that end, you will be given some fertility drugs in order to retrieve more than one egg.

The reasons to consider this option are as follows:

  • If you are about to undergo treatments for either cancer or other illnesses that might cause a chemical imbalance in the long run and to that end, might affect the potential of your fertility.

  • In case you are undergoing In Vitro Fertilization. IN the cases in which wither your partner isn’t able to produce sufficient amounts of sperms or your eggs are being retrieved, egg freezing might be necessary so that you can get more than one chance to get pregnant.

  • In case you need younger eggs for usage in the future. When you go through the procedure when you are younger, you are preserving them for future reference.

What are the risks associated with egg freezing?

The risks that are associated with egg freezing are as follows:

  • Fertility drug issues: There are many certain fertility drugs that tend to over-stimulate the ovaries and this tend to make the entire process of retrieval quite painful.

  • Complications with the egg retrieval procedure: the aspirating needle that is used to extract the eggs from the uterus tends to cause bleeding, infection or damage to either the bowel or the bladder.

  • There is also a risk of emotional risk: You have to understand one thing, every fertilization method that is present is only based on retrospective evidence. 

To that end, if this has worked before, does not mean that it will work now. However, many couples tend to put their entire hopes on this procedure and when there is no success, they become hopeless.

Preparation for the procedure

If you opting to get your eggs freeze, you need to understand all the things that you can comprehend about them. To that end, you need to confer with the experts at all times. Now, once you are mentally prepared and ready, you will have to go through the following screening tests:

  • Infectious disease screening: In case you are a patient with an infectious disease like aids, the way your eggs will be frozen is going to be totally different from others.

  • Ovarian reserve testing: This s a test that is done to determine the quality and the number of your eggs. Furthermore, it is also the test that is used to determine as to what kinds of fertility medications you might need in order to get your ovaries stimulated.

What does the procedure for egg freezing entail?

The procedure of egg freezing is one that required multiple steps and it involves the following:

1. The process of ovulation induction: This process refers to the inducing ovulation in you through the treatment with synthetic hormones, this would stimulate the growth of eggs inside your ovaries and multiple eggs retrieval is then considered. There are two types of medications to consider here:

  • Medications to stimulate the ovaries

  • Medication to prevent premature ovulation

This is a process that can take some time. To that end, you will have to take your medications and do some follow up visits with your gynaecologist. The doctor will also, perform ultrasound you to check for maturity in the ovarian cysts. Blood tests will also be conducted so as to see whether there are any side effects of the medications. Hormone levels are checked as well.

2. The process of egg retrieval: This process refers to retrieving the egg in order to preserve it later:

  • You will first be kept under sedation.

  • Then using ultrasound aspiration, an aspiration needle will be guided inside your uterus using ultrasound imaging in order to retrieve the egg. This is done by inserting the needle through the vagina and into the follicle. Then, a suction device is connected to the other end and once the proper location of varies is reached, the suction retrieves the eggs.

3. The process of freezing: Once the eggs have been retrieved, all that is left is to freeze the eggs. This is done shortly after the eggs have been harvested. 

There are two freezing methods to consider here and both of them entail the usage of cryoprotectants. Cryoprotectants refer to the substances that make sure that ice crystals are not formed around the eggs during the freezing process. The two methods of freezing are:

  • Slow freeze method: It is a slow freezing method that does not require a high concentration of cryoprotectants.

  • Vitrification: In this particular process, the cooling is rapid and the high concentration of cryoprotectants ensures that no ice crystals are formed during rapid freezing.

Once the surgery is over with, you can resume your activities mere weeks after that.

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Dr. Madhu Goel is a well renowned senior gynaecologist and a senior consultant at Fortis La femme, New Delhi. She runs a private consultation in Goel’s surgery and Gynea centre and prior to being associated with Fortis; she was a consultant a Rockland Hospital.