Egg freezing is a process in which a woman’s reproductive potential is preserved. The process is scientifically known as oocyte cryopreservation, where a woman’s eggs are harvested from the ovaries, then frozen and stored in an unfertilized state for later use. Usually, egg freezing and in vitro fertilization (IVF) go hand in hand, where the frozen egg is fertilized and implanted in the woman’s uterus. Egg freezing has huge possibilities, where women have the choice to bear children when they are ready. In cases where the couple goes for an IVF, they can freeze the eggs, which can be used to conceive a second child.
The egg freezing procedure is performed on the woman alone, and there is no need for a male partner or a sperm donor, as in embryo cryopreservation. Fertility drugs are administered to induce ovulation, i.e. to produce more eggs at retrieval.
When is Egg Freezing considered?
A woman might consider the method of Egg freezing in the following cases: apart from the most common case where women want to have children at a later stage, below are some other medical causes to consider egg freezing:-
- Cancer Treatments: if a woman detected with cancer has to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy, these treatments affect a woman’s fertility. To help women bear biological children in the future, an egg freezing procedure is done before the cancer treatment.
- If the couple is undergoing an in vitro fertilization and the male partner cannot produce the appropriate amount of sperm, then the best option is egg freezing.
Egg Freezing Procedure
Before Egg Freezing, the below two tests are done:-
- Ovarian reserve testing – This test is done to determine the quality and quantity of the woman’s natural eggs. The subsequent results help determine the ovaries response to fertility drugs.
- Screening for infectious diseases – Testing is done to check for infectious diseases like HIV 122, Hep B, Hep C etc.
Below is the step-by-step procedure for egg freezing:-
Step -1 – Ovulation induction
At the start of the menstrual cycle, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or human menopausal gonadotropin is given to stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs and not just the single egg which forms monthly.
Blood tests measure ovarian response to the drugs. In around 9 to 12 days, eggs can be retrieved. The final maturation & ovulation of eggs is completed by injecting HCG injection.
Step -2 – Egg Retrieval
- Anaesthesia is given for the process of retrieval of the eggs. Transvaginal ultrasound is used as an aid. A small ultrasound probe is passed through the vagina to accurately locate the follicles. A fine needle with a suction device is sent into the vagina and further into the follicles. Very carefully, the eggs are retrieved from the follicles. A good number of eggs can be retrieved in 20 to 30 minutes.
- For a few weeks after egg retrieval, the woman might experience some cramping or feeling of fullness or some pressure. This is because ovaries might stay enlarged for some time.
- If there are any issues accessing the ovaries through the transvaginal ultrasound, a laparoscope (a tube with a camera) is inserted by making a small incision into the belly button.
Step -3 Egg Freezing
- The eggs are retrieved and frozen without fertilization at a sub-zero temperature of (-196 degrees). At this temperature, all biological activity inside the egg is stopped.
Egg Freezing Techniques
Below are the various special methods for Egg freezing:
- Slow-freezing technique – Programmable freezers are used to freeze eggs very slowly, and intracellular ice crystals are not formed. In this slow-freezing method, a low concentration of cryoprotectants is initially used, followed by a high concentration of cryoprotectants. The temperature gradually declines, so the eggs’ metabolic rates also gradually reduce.
- Vitrification is currently used, a popular technique, and is the opposite of slow freezing. A higher concentration of the cryoprotectant is used with rapid cooling. The advantage is that there is no time for the intracellular ice crystals to form.
What are the side effects of Egg Freezing?
The egg freezing method does carry some risks, as mentioned below.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome– Certain fertility-enhancing drugs are administered to release more eggs for egg collection. This may lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, where the ovaries get painful and swollen immediately after the retrieval of the eggs or ovulation. Some other related signs and symptoms of the syndrome may be mentioned.
- Abdominal pains
- Issues during the egg retrieval procedure– The eggs are retrieved with a fine aspirating needle that may lead to bleeding, bowel damage, infections, or damage to the blood vessels or urinary bladder
- Effects of anaesthesia – Since anaesthesia is administered. Some of the below side effects can be observed :
- A confused state of mind
- A feeling of cold or shivering
What to expect after the egg freezing procedure?
- Normal work can be resumed within a week of egg retrieval.
- To avoid unwanted pregnancy, women are advised to have protected sex.
- If you observe any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor:
- Burning or pain while urinating
- High temperatures, fever.
- Heavy bleeding, filling more than 2 pads in an hour.
- Unbearable abdominal pain
- If you gained more than 1.0 kg weight within 24 hours
At ZIVA fertility center, we strongly advise you to rest for an entire day following the egg collection procedure. Under normal circumstances, all cramping, pain or soreness fades away in a week, and you can resume your normal activities. Even after storing for 5 to 10 years, successful pregnancies have been achieved. However, one should consider the cost implications of eggs’ very long-term storage. Reach us today at +91-9100002737, +91-9392834024 or visit our website https://zivafertility.com/ to know more.