What is the process of egg freezing?
Egg freezing is the process of removing young healthy eggs from the ovaries and freezing them in a lab. Medically, this process is referred to as oocyte cryopreservation.
The first step of this procedure involves going through a fertility and health assessment. The health assessment is to check for STI’s. The fertility assessment is to determine the quality and quantity of eggs. Both assessments include pelvic ultrasounds and blood tests.
The reason why the health care provider may want to check the quality and quantity of eggs is to determine the number of eggs to freeze. For women who are between 37 and 40 years of age, freezing thirty eggs increases their chances of getting pregnant by 80%. Women who are under the age of 35 only need to freeze 15 eggs because their eggs are healthier and younger compared to those of women who are over 35.
The reason why older women need to freeze more eggs is that they do not have many quality eggs as younger women. However, the age factor is not the only reason. Certain conditions such as endometriosis can impact egg quality.
After your assessment, you are now ready to go to the next stage of the process. In the next stage, you may be required to take birth control pills for about a week or two to induce ovulation. After which, you will be required to take hormone injections for about 10 days to stimulate your ovaries to produce many eggs. Not all clinics require to take birth control pills during this process, but some do.
Once the eggs have matured, they are extracted using a needle which is inserted through your vaginal wall. During this process, you will be sedated to avoid pain.
Egg retrieval takes about 20 minutes and you will not need any stitches since the physician does not perform any cutting.
Once your eggs are extracted, they are frozen at below zero temperatures to preserve them.
After the procedure, you should be able to resume your normal activities in a week unless you develop complications, which is rare. However, if you start experiencing the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.
- Severe abdominal pain
- High fever
- Excessive weight gain within in 24 hours
- Difficulty urination
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Pleural effusion and ascites.
There are some certain risks that come with egg freezing and these risks include:
- Side-effects associated with the hormone medication. Although it is rare, injectable fertility medication can cause a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in which the ovaries swell up after egg retrieval. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Complications associated with egg retrieval. Using an aspirating need to extract the eggs can cause an infection and bleeding. It can also cause damage to the blood vessels, bladder or bowel.
- Emotional risks. When women freeze their eggs, it’s is so that they can be able to use them to get pregnant in the future. And so there is that hope that they can have children once they are settled and ready to start a family.
However, there are never guarantees and chances of success may depend on many things.