What You Should Know About Freezing Your Eggs
Advances in fertility care and technology offer an opportunity to take control of your reproductive health and postpone pregnancy until a later date. Freezing healthy eggs at an early age may optimize chances for future fertility and puts you in greater control of your reproductive health. Here are a few of the common questions and what you should know about freezing your eggs.
Is Egg Freezing Considered Safe?
Egg freezing (also known as oocyte cryopreservation) was considered experimental until 2013. In 2013, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) published a statement saying that egg freezing should no longer be considered experimental because pregnancy rates from frozen eggs were comparable to pregnancy rates from fresh eggs. Additionally, there is no increase in chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, or developmental deficits associated with the use of frozen eggs.
What Is the Egg Freezing Process Like?
Egg freezing involves injectable hormones to help your ovaries mature multiple eggs all at the same time. Most patients will require 8 to 14 days of daily injections before the eggs are ready to be harvested. Your body’s response to the injectable hormones will be measured through blood work and ultrasound monitoring. Once the eggs are deemed “ready”, they will be harvested through a simple 5-10 minute outpatient procedure under anesthesia. During this procedure, a needle is inserted through the side of the vagina and into each ovary to harvest the eggs. There is usually a mix of mature and immature eggs. Only the mature eggs can be fertilized, so only the mature eggs are frozen.
How Many Eggs Will My Body Produce?
Your body’s response to the medications is unique to you, and it is difficult to predict in advance exactly how many eggs your body will produce. In general, ovarian response is largely age-related. Patients less than 35 years of age tend to produce more eggs, while patients over 35 tend to have a more modest response.
What Are the Risks of Freezing My Eggs?
Egg freezing is considered to be a very safe procedure. There are no known long-term risks associated with the egg freezing process. There may be transient side effects from the medications that patients notice during the cycle. These side effects are typically minor and temporary (bloating, headaches, mood changes etc.) The process of harvesting the eggs is completed through a very quick procedure done under anesthesia. As with any procedure, there is a small risk of bleeding, infection, or damage to other surrounding organs. The rate of serious complications related to egg freezing is < 1%. There is a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which occurs when a patient over-responds to the medication. Another potential, but very uncommon, risk is ovarian torsion. With torsion, the ovary twists on itself, thus limiting its blood supply. This condition is extremely rare.
Will Freezing Eggs Result in Premature Menopause?
There is no evidence that freezing eggs will cause a patient to experience menopause earlier than expected.
What Is the Right Age to Freeze Eggs and How Many Eggs Do I Need to Freeze?
Egg quantity and quality decline with age. Women in their 20s and early 30s are typically ideal candidates for egg freezing. In general, we do not recommend that women freeze eggs at or beyond age 40. Biologically, the majority of eggs that are frozen will not result in a healthy pregnancy. Therefore, we need to “overshoot” and freeze a substantial number of eggs in order to feel optimistic that there is a high likelihood of a viable pregnancy in the future. Most women will typically aim to freeze at least 10-20 eggs. It may take more than one cycle to reach that goal, depending on the individual woman’s pool of eggs.
How Can I Get More Information?
At Fertility Centers of New England, we have a wealth of experience with oocyte cryopreservation. We understand that the decision to freeze eggs is an important one—physically, psychologically, and financially. If you are interested in learning more about freezing your eggs or have more questions on what you should know about freezing your eggs, please contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our fertility experts.