Egg freezing – scientifically referred to as oocyte vitrification – is used for fertility preservation. Originally created to support women with cancer diagnoses or medical treatments that would compromise future fertility, egg freezing is now used to preserve fertility for women who want to delay starting a family until their late-30s or early-40s, and is also used for women who donate their eggs.
If you’re thinking about freezing your eggs, read our post with answers to the most frequently asked questions about egg freezing.
Egg Freezing: A 5 Step Process
The process required to freeze your eggs is the same as the first phases of an IVF cycle. You’ll be evaluated by a fertility specialist to ensure there are no underlying health issues or infertility factors that would hinder your chances of fertility via IVF when you’re ready to get pregnant in the future.
Step One: Your Fertility Consultation
The first step is to meet with a fertility specialist to review your medical history, to have the opportunity to ask questions – and learn all you can about the egg freezing process – and to move forward with a full fertility evaluation.
Latent and undiagnosed Infertility factors could jeopardize the viability of your eggs or the ability for an embryo to implant successfully later on. By evaluating those factors now, you have a better idea of your fertility chances later on.
Step Two: Ovarian Stimulation
Once you’ve received the go ahead from your fertility specialist, you’ll look at your calendar and find the best time to begin stimulating your ovaries to release an abundance of eggs. The more eggs we retrieve, the higher your chance of successful egg fertilization when it’s time to begin IVF treatments.
Ideally, we want to retrieve at least 15 to 20 eggs, so we use injectable fertility medications, which stimulate more ovarian follicles than oral medication options. We’ll start this process when you’re ready, and in sync with your natural menstrual cycle – which may require a month or two longer if you’ve been using hormonal birth control.
We recommend using using a fertility specialty pharmacy which provides services specifically tailored to patients using fertility meds and assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant.
Step Three: Egg Retrieval
Once you’re using fertility medications, you’ll be carefully monitored via tests and ultrasound, so we know exactly when your eggs are ripe for retrieval. When that day comes, you’ll participate in an outpatient procedure.
Under mild sedation, to minimize any discomfort, you’ll lay back on the exam table while the doctor uses a special instrument to delicately retrieve each, mature egg from the follicle. Eggs are microscopic, so we use a guided imaging procedure to retrieve the eggs, and then a microscope to verify the egg’s retrieval. We’ll repeat this step over and over until all of the mature eggs are retrieved.
Note: In almost all cases, you’ll also have enough immature egg follicles left that you retain the opportunity to conceive a baby at home if you choose to do so, and forgo or put off the use of your stored eggs.
Step 4: Egg Freezing and Storing
In a typical IVF cycle, most patients immediately fertilize their eggs and store resulting embryos. In your case, we’ll use a vitrification process (similar to freezing but resulting in fewer ice crystals, preserving the egg membranes’ integrity when they’re thawed for use), and then store the vitrified eggs in our highly-monitored cryopreservation tanks.
You’ll pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee for egg storage until you use the eggs and/or decide to thaw and discard (or donate!) your remaining eggs.
Step 5: Using Your Eggs
When the time comes that you’re ready to get pregnant, you’ll contact the fertility specialist to get started. After verifying your partner has healthy sperm (donor sperm is also an option), we will sync your menstrual cycle and move forward with IVF.
Because your eggs were frozen when you were at prime reproductive health, and assuming you have a healthy fertility checkup, you’ll benefit from IVF success rates that are equal to or higher than those shown on the CDC’s IVF stat charts.
Contact us here at the Reproductive Resource Center to learn more about the egg freezing and fertility preservation processes.