Egg freezing or oocyte cryopreservation is a process which allows women to preserve eggs for future use. They are harvested when the woman is young, as the quality of the eggs declines with age. The woman is given fertility medicines to ovulate and then the eggs are extracted using a needle and an ultrasound probe.
Why is it done?
It takes about 2 weeks for the woman to start ovulating after taking the fertility medicines. It’s not a major procedure for one to be worried about as anaesthesia is given to the patient. It takes 10 minutes to complete the entire procedure.
Egg freezing gives the option to conceive or get pregnant at a later stage. Working women prefer this method as it helps them plan a pregnancy. It could also be used by women who are undergoing medical treatment or have a medical condition that could affect their fertility in the future.
What you can expect?
The procedure will be explained to the patient as it has multiple steps:
- Ovarian Stimulation:
- Fertility drugs are given to stimulate the ovaries which help produce multiple eggs. These drugs can mature 20 – 25 healthy eggs which can be fertilized.
- Hormones are injected into the body which helps eggs to mature.
- Once the hormones are injected, the doctor will monitor the patient and get regular blood tests to check the response to the drugs.
- The next step would involve follow up visits where an ultrasound scan of the ovaries will be done to check for the growth of follicles.
- Egg retrieval:
- The egg is retrieved using a needle which is guided to where the follicles are. A suction device at the end of the needle removes the egg from the follicle. The chances of conceiving increase with the number of eggs that are retrieved.
- The patient might experience cramps due to the ovaries that remain enlarged after the procedure.
Once the eggs are harvested, they are immediately frozen in order to preserve them. This process is called vitrification, a cryopreservation technique that prevents ice crystals from forming due to the difficult makeup of an unfertilized egg.
Results / Outcomes –
A week after the procedure the patient can resume normal activities. It is best to avoid unprotected sex to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. It is best to contact the doctor if the following side effects are experienced:
- High fever
- Abdominal pain
- Heavy bleeding
- Urinary issues
The results of this procedure will enable the patient to use the eggs in the future. Post-procedure the following steps are taken to use the egg:
- The eggs are thawed in order to take them out of cryopreservation.
- They are fertilized using sperm in the lab.
- A process called Intracytoplasmic sperm injection might be used to inject a single healthy sperm into the oocyte.
- Once the embryo is successfully formed, it will be implanted in the patient or the gestational carrier’s uterus.
The chances of getting pregnant depend upon the age at the time of egg freezing. As it was mentioned above, the health of the egg depends upon the age at it which it was retrieved.