You hear it in the news; the latest celebrity froze their eggs. Good for them! But how or why would this relate to you? Let’s put a pin in that and come back to that shortly.
First, let’s break down egg freezing
The fancy term for egg freezing is cryopreservation, which is the cooling of cells and tissues to sub-zero temperatures in order to stop biological activity and allow for preservation. Cryopreservation came about in the mid-20th century, to freeze sperm and embryos successfully.
Since then techniques were developed to allow freezing to occur slowly (i.e., slow freeze) allowing minimal ice formation. As you can guess, too much ice formation can interfere with oocyte development.
Oocyte: Definition needed, please! An oocyte (pronounced oh-uh-site) is a cell in the ovary that can undergo division to form an egg.
Cool, right? But since 2000, an alternative to slow freeze, called vitrification, has become the preferred method. In simple terms, vitrification is cryopreservation with sufficient protectants and faster cooling, essentially solidifying the cell into a glass-like state, without ice formation.
Then egg freezing took a big step in 2013. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), stated that egg freezing and thawing (while not necessarily recommended for every woman) should no longer be considered experimental. This is what brought egg freezing into more of the main-stream media and consideration for each individual woman.
The Process to Freezing Your Eggs
Freezing your eggs involves weeks of planning and approximately 8 to 12 days of medication and monitoring and then the egg retrieval procedure. Here are a few steps to getting started with the egg freezing process:
- Research to find a trust-worthy, respected, successful reproductive endocrinologist in your area
- Reproductive endocrinologists (RE) usually work at fertility centers
- Set up an initial appointment to meet with a RE.
- Make sure you’ve done your research and you feel comfortable with them and the center.
- Schedule an ovarian reserve test with that center
- After analysis of your ovarian reserve tests, you and your RE will then decide if you are the right candidate to freeze your eggs
During an Egg Freezing Cycle
- If your doctor thinks you are a good candidate for freezing your eggs, the next steps will be:
- Syncing up your menstrual cycle through birth control
- Taking the medication the fertility center prescribes on specific days
- Medication may involve injections; there are many helpful tutorials that the center should supply as well as videos to help
- You can hire a nurse to give you your injections if you prefer
- Going into the fertility clinic for monitoring appointments during the medication process
- After 8 to 10 days of medication and monitoring, the clinic will determine the best day for your egg retrieval procedure
- The procedure takes around 20 minutes while you are sedated
- A driver is required to be with you from start to finish as you will not be able to drive yourself home
- Plan on spending a few hours at the clinic in order to prepare for the procedure and then rest afterwards
- Rest that day and the day after as well as consume liquids and a higher protein diet. Follow all instructions prescribed by your center
Please note, none of this is medical advice; consult directly with a medical physician.
Women Freeze Their Eggs for Many Reasons
Now that egg freezing is no longer considered experimental, any woman can consider this as a potential option. There are many reasons for a woman to freeze her eggs and here are some of the leading reasons.
1. Conceiving More Than One Child
Surprisingly enough, women may seamlessly conceive a healthy first pregnancy but when they begin to try to conceive a second time, they struggle. This tends to be hard to understand for women, since the first time around was easy.
Instyle magazine writes, “struggling to get pregnant a second time can present a painful and emotional roadblock; a gaping hole in the family unit you hoped you’d someday have.” For the full story, please read here.
Many couples try to conceive at the wrong time, simply because they don’t know when their most fertile days are. Researchers found that only 12.7% of women estimated their ovulation time correctly and only 55% of women estimated their ovulation within their fertile window. Mira tracks key fertility hormones concentrations to give you personalized insights into your cycle and maximizes your chances of getting pregnant. You can track your fertile window using the Mira Fertility Starter Kit that shows your full fertile window.
If you are looking to conceive more than one child and you are starting your family later in life, egg freezing may be able to support siblings.
2. Cancer Treatment
When a woman is diagnosed with cancer, there are an incredible amount of decisions she needs to make. The first and possibly most important is agreeing to the type of treatment she will move through. And after she makes that decision, she might immediately put the cancer treatment in motion. Working on getting healthy is the number one priority.
However, if there is a chance to pause before cancer treatment begins and consider the woman’s fertility health, that would be ideal.
When a woman goes through cancer treatment, radiation can destroy eggs. Other types of cancer treatment can damage the female reproductive organs as well. Therefore egg freezing or other ways of preserving the woman’s fertility and chance of reproduction, should be considered before cancer treatment begins.
More information from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center can be found here.
3. Not Ready to Conceive, Yet
Today this is the most common reason women freeze their eggs; women are not ready to have children yet. It could be because:
- Focusing on career
- Wanting to pay down debt before they bring in a child
- Getting a divorce
- Do not have a partner yet
- Focusing on travel and exploring life
- Unsure of becoming a mother
- Partner is unavailable and wants to wait
There are many reasons why a woman chooses to freeze her eggs and these are just a few.
Overall freezing your eggs can be a complicated decision due to the emotional, financial, and physical effects on you. For additional resources on egg freezing visit our partner’s website www.eggfreezingbook.com.