Many women who want to have children often feel pressure to do so early from society, family members, and even just the passage of time. But a young woman in today’s world may not want to immediately have children. She may want to focus on education, travel, building a career, gaining financial stability, or any combination of these before having children. Alternatively, she may have an illness that will damage fertility as time goes by. Or she may be facing invasive treatment for something like cancer, and the treatment can also be harmful.
But what is a woman to do when those issues conflict with the fact that those years are her most fertile? One option is oocyte cryopreservation, also referred to as freezing your eggs. Recently, mature oocyte cryopreservation has come into mainstream conversation more and more. This may be attributed to generational lifestyle choices or because the option has become more accessible.
Here are some of the reasons you may want to consider freezing your eggs:
- You want to have younger eggs available for in the future. You have general plans to have children in the future, but you do not know exactly when. In this case, egg freezing will preserve your highest quality eggs. When in her 20’s, a woman’s fertility is at its peak and her eggs are healthiest. Having the best eggs available in the future can increase your chance of getting pregnant when the time comes.
- You require treatment for illnesses like cancer. Treatments for some serious diseases are harsh on the body and can harm fertility. Most commonly, these treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Freezing your eggs before beginning treatment can increase your chances of having biological children after you have recovered.
- You have a genetic condition or other illness that will negatively affect your fertility more quickly than usual as you age. Common conditions that can harm fertility include endometriosis, sickle cell anemia, or lupus.
- You are in the process of in vitro fertilization and you have religious or ethical objections to freezing fertilized eggs or embryos. Often people with these reservations are more comfortable with freezing only the individual components.
- You have a family history of early menopause.
- You want to donate your eggs to someone else. You may have a friend or family member who is struggling with fertility and you have made the decision to donate your eggs to them. There are also programs where you can get paid to donate your eggs to couples you do not know.
When Should You Freeze Your Eggs?
If possible, you should begin the egg freezing process in your 20s. Women can also donate their eggs in their 30s. The success of egg harvesting is greater if you do it when you are at peak fertility. You can work with a fertility specialist to determine if you are a good candidate for mature oocyte cryopreservation.
How are Eggs Harvested and Frozen?
The Mayo Clinic has lots of information on egg freezing and what the process entails, but here is an overview of the general steps:
- Assessment: Once you and your fertility specialist have decided mature oocyte preservation is right for you, you will be examined to estimate your ovarian reserve and the potential amount of eggs the process may yield. It is also used to determine the dosage of medication you should take during the preparation stage. Assessment will include blood tests and pelvic ultrasounds.
- Preparation: The preparation for egg preservation includes ovarian stimulation, just like the beginning of the IVF process. Hormones and other medications are used to stimulate follicle growth and egg production. This part of the process usually lasts 10-12 days.
- Harvesting: The eggs are harvested during an outpatient procedure with the use of light anesthesia.
- Examination: A specialist called an embryologist will examine the eggs to make sure they are healthy.
- Protection: After the eggs are determined to be of good quality for freezing, the embryologist exposes the eggs to a cryoprotectant solution which helps them survive the freezing process.
- Freezing: Finally, the eggs are frozen by plunging the eggs into liquid nitrogen. This method freezes the eggs almost instantly.
It’s important to remember that every woman’s situation is different. A fertility specialist will be able to help you with this decision by educating you about the process, risks, and possible outcomes.
Carolinas Fertility Institute is here to help you with your fertility journey, including whether egg freezing with Ovest may be right for you. To talk with our experienced staff, call our Charlotte office at 844-686-2233 or our offices in the Triad at 336-448-9100. Or request an appointment online.