Egg (Oocyte) Freezing
Egg freezing refers to the cooling process that halts all biological activity in eggs, allowing them to be preserved for future use. The technique of egg freezing has been around for decades with the first human birth from a frozen oocyte reported in 1986,1 however it had always been considered experimental. As techniques have improved dramatically over the past decade with better survival and pregnancy rates, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine removed the “experimental” label in 2013, recognizing egg freezing as a valid option to preserve reproductive potential in women of child-bearing age.2
Indications for Egg Freezing
Egg freezing is available for a variety of circumstances. Patients facing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy due to a new diagnosis of cancer or other medical conditions should strongly consider egg freezing, as these treatments can be toxic and damaging to the ovaries. Other indications for egg freezing include medical conditions requiring surgical removal of the ovaries, and genetic conditions associated with a high likelihood of ovarian failure. Couples uncomfortable with freezing embryos for religious or personal reasons may be more comfortable with freezing eggs and given the decline in fertility with aging, women may elect to freeze their eggs to improve their chances of having a baby in the future. Finally, emergency situations may arise during an IVF cycle, where the male partner is unable to collect a semen sample for fertilization of eggs already obtained from the female partner. The retrieved eggs in this scenario can be frozen until sperm is available.
Egg freezing Process
Similar to the in vitro fertilization process, egg freezing involves an initial consultation with a fertility specialist where your medical history is thoroughly reviewed, and a physical exam is performed. Blood tests may be obtained to help predict the number of eggs that could be obtained, and the risks and benefits of egg freezing are typically discussed. Daily injections of gonadotropins are given to stimulate growth of eggs, and frequent ultrasounds are performed to monitor growth. Once the eggs are mature, they are extracted by an aspiration procedure by a fertility specialist and frozen in the laboratory. Current evidence shows that there are no increases in birth defects or developmental deficits in children born from frozen eggs.2
At Laurel Fertility Care, the vitrification technique is used to freeze eggs as well as embryos. With vitrification, eggs are exposed to solutions to help survive freezing and are then plunged into liquid nitrogen at really low temperatures. Evidence strongly suggests that this is a more superior technique to the older methods and leads to improved survival and pregnancy rates. Laurel Fertility Care’s Laboratory Director, Marlane Angle, PhD has extensive experience in egg freezing and has traveled around the world to teach other embryologists how to perform vitrification. Frozen eggs are stored on-site in our accredited laboratory.
Various financing options for egg freezing are available at Laurel Fertility Care. If you are interested in learning more about egg freezing, please contact us to arrange an appointment.
- Chen C. Pregnancy after human oocyte cryopreservation. Lancet 1986;1: 884–6.
- Practice Committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Mature oocyte cryopreservation: a guideline. Fertil Steril 2013;99(1): 37-43