IVF Egg Freezing Is An Option For Women Not Yet Ready To Have Children
Maybe you are a single woman, who hasn’t met Mr. Right, or maybe you aren’t ready to have children yet. Many women are now turning to cryopreservation (freezing) of their eggs (oocytes). Beginning at 30 years old, a woman’s overall fertility begins a slow decent, which really is more noticeable as a woman approaches her 40’s. This isn’t to say that you can’t have healthy children in your 30’s or 40’s; it just may become a bit more difficult.
When a female is born, her ovaries contain hundreds of thousands of eggs, meaning she has all the eggs she will ever have in her life. Once a young woman begins her menses (period) she begins to release the eggs. In a healthy female, one of her ovaries will send an egg into one of the fallopian tubes about once each month.
One of the most important factors when thinking about the chances of conceiving is a woman’s age. Age affects both the quantity and quality of eggs that a woman has; one of the biggest issues that challenges older women trying to conceive. One of the most recent developments in reproductive technology is the ability to successfully freeze a woman’s eggs prior to fertilization.
What typically happens during the egg freezing process?
- Egg retrieval – Similar to an IVF procedure, a female is given drugs to produce multiple eggs. Ultrasound-guided needles are used to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.
- Egg maturity – Each egg is examined for maturity using a microscope and then selected for freezing.
- Preparation for freezing of the eggs – Eggs are treated in an ‘antifreeze’ solution before freezing. The current technologies (vitrification) for freezing eggs are raising success rates, but a great deal of data still needs to be collected.
- Frozen Eggs – The eggs that have been selected to be frozen are stored in tubes in a liquid nitrogen storage tank.
What happens when you are ready to use your eggs?
- Egg Thawing – each egg is thawed, not all eggs may make it through this process. Eggs that don’t are discarded.
- Egg Fertilization – each thawed egg is injected with a needle containing a single sperm from either your partner or donor. Injected a single sperm into an egg is a procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection of eggs.)
- Watchful Waiting – Eggs will be monitored for correct cell division as they develop into embryos.
- Embryo Transfer – Embryos are transferred into the uterus using a catheter, guided by ultrasound.
Freezing eggs allows a woman to postpone pregnancy for various reasons, but is still extremely controversial. Women feel that they are in essence “buying time” and holding on to their biological clock. The future is endless when in comes to reproductive technology. We aren’t yet sure where medicine and technology will take us. Currently success rates are still fairly low in regards to freezing eggs. For many cancer patients though, it gives them hope when before they were left with little or no options. Most professionals agree that there is still a lot of research to be done.