Egg Freezing: Should You Consider It?
Thinking about your biological clock and freezing your eggs can be the source of much anguish. But there are many reasons a woman in her late 20s or early 30s may be thinking about fertility preservation and egg freezing.
You’re born with a limited number of eggs. This number, as well as the quality of the eggs, decreases with age — an unfortunate reality that impacts your fertility over time. Egg freezing can help preserve fertility but making the decision to freeze your eggs is a bit more complicated than it might sound. PureOvum answers your questions on how egg freezing works and what to consider in deciding if it’s the way to go.
How Does the Egg Freezing Process Work?
Egg freezing, which is also called mature oocyte cryopreservation, is the process of harvesting eggs from your ovaries and freezing them until you are ready to try to get pregnant. To retrieve eggs for freezing, a patient undergoes the same hormone-injection process as in-vitro fertilization. The only difference is that following egg retrieval, they are frozen for a period before they are thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus as embryos. It takes approximately 3 weeks to complete the egg freezing cycle and is consistent with the initial stages of the IVF process including:
- 1-2 weeks of birth control pills to temporarily turn off natural hormones (this step can be skipped if there is urgency, such as prior to cancer therapy).
- 9-10 days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple eggs.
Once the eggs have adequately matured, they are removed with a needle placed through the vagina under ultrasound guidance. This procedure is done under intravenous sedation and is not painful. The eggs are then immediately frozen. When the patient is ready to attempt pregnancy (this can be several years later) the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.
When Should You Consider Freezing Your Eggs?
The younger you are when you freeze your eggs, the better your chance of becoming pregnant through this process. Some studies suggest that women who freeze their eggs before age 35 have a better chance of a successful pregnancy than those who freeze their eggs after age 35.
And while the number (and quality) of eggs a woman has can vary, age is often the most commonly used predictor of how successful the whole process is likely to be.
If you’re worried about your fertility, your doctor can perform imaging and blood work, such as an anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) test, that help determine your egg quantity and quality, in addition to predicting how well you might respond to hormone injection therapy and how your ovaries are currently functioning.