Is there any way to know in advance if the eggs will survive the freezing process?
Not with certainty. Studies have shown that there is variability in the ability of eggs to tolerate the freezing process. They have also shown that within a single group of eggs frozen, some will survive and others will not. In those that do survive the freezing and later thawing, some will fertilize when exposed to sperm and others will not.
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At what age should I consider freezing my eggs?
Oocyte cryopreservation is not for everyone. This technology should be reserved for women who are likely to experience a real decline in their fertility in the near future. Most women their 20s have a number of years before their fertility may decline significantly and therefore may be best counseled to postpone egg freezing for some years to see if they still need this option. Women in their early to mid 30’s who are not planning to start a family in the next few years are the best candidates for this technology. Women already in an age group where fertility is likely to be compromised – 40 and over, are less likely to benefit from egg freezing once those eggs are thawed. Our Fertility Preservation Egg Bank will be accepting patients for consultation between the ages of 30-40 years old. Women younger than 30 years may be considered if they have some evidence and/or a family history of a premature decrease in ovarian function. Women less than 40 may be considered if they have ovarian testing indicating good ovarian function and reserve, increasing the likelihood that egg banking for them may still be of benefit.
What is the optimal number of eggs to be frozen?
While there can never be “too many” eggs frozen in the pursuit of fertility preservation, an important lesson learned from our success with frozen eggs is that it is best to be prepared to encounter a percentage of eggs obtained that are either not suitable for freezing or unable to survive the treatment of the eggs. Based on current results, we recommend that women freezing eggs for fertility preservation consider cryopreserving 15-20 eggs. Especially in women at younger reproductive age, that many eggs may be available from just one stimulation/freeze cycle. In other women, the option for a second or perhaps third cycle may be needed to reach that goal.
Will I reduce my available eggs for later by freezing now?
No. At the beginning of each menstrual cycle, literally hundreds of eggs begin the “race” to ovulation. Each month, only one egg is ovulated and the rest degenerate – they are lost forever. The medications we use allow many more of those eggs otherwise lost to reach maturity and retrieval for freezing.
I have irregular periods, can I still freeze my eggs?
Most women with irregular cycles have plenty of eggs, they just don’t ovulate regularly. These eggs can be stimulated for freezing just as easily as in women with regular menses. Part of the initial evaluation for all women considering freezing includes testing to evaluate hormonal and egg status.
If I live some distance away, how can I work with a local fertility center to prepare for the procedure?
If needed, once enrolled in our program we can coordinate with a fertility center near your home to assist in the management of your treatments. We will provide them with the necessary medical information assist us. You can do you the required blood tests and ultrasound studies at their center and they send the results to us the same day. In many instances, you may remain at home until near the day of your actual egg recovery.
How are the eggs obtained?
Once ready for retrieval, your eggs will be collected in our AAAHC sanctioned ambulatory surgery suite in our medical office. You will be lightly sedated, but asleep, and feel no discomfort. The eggs are removed through the vagina using a small, very accurate ultrasound guide that allows the doctor to drain the fluid filled follicles containing your eggs. The procedure lasts about 20-30 minutes. You will remain in our recovery area another 30-60 minutes until ready for discharge. You will need to take things easy for a few days, although most people return to their regular activities a day or two later.
Please note: You will need to have someone 18 years or older with you on the day of the retrieval to drive you home after the procedure.
Are there risks?
All medical procedures have risks, but the balance between the risks and the benefits need be in favor of the benefits, especially for women electively seeking these medical interventions. The Informed Consent documents that will be reviewed and signed give greater detail, but the most common risks involve complications from the stimulation of the ovaries to development many eggs to retrieve and cryopreserve, and potential bleeding and / or infection from the egg retrieval itself. Fortunately, these complications are very rare, but in a woman volunteering to go through this process, taking any risk, especially ones that potentially could affect future success of fertility without the use of the frozen banked eggs, must be considered seriously.
Certainly there may be as yet unknown risk to embryo or child conceived from eggs cryopreserved, but perhaps the greatest known risk to fertility preservation egg banking is that some women may delay pregnancy that they might have otherwise ultimately chosen to pursue had the option for egg banking not been available or taken, and then subsequent attempts at conception with or without the use of the banked stored eggs at a later age are unsuccessful.
Where will the eggs be stored?
Immediately after they are vitrified, your eggs will be placed into one of our liquid nitrogen storage containers for safekeeping. Mechanisms are in place to promote the safe long-term storage of your eggs. Should you later wish to have your eggs shipped frozen to an alternate long-term facility, we can assist you with this. You will be provided with the paperwork needed to assist you in arranging for the transport of your eggs.
How long can the eggs be stored?
This question has not yet been answered. Animal studies indicate that, in some instances the viability of frozen eggs may decrease over time. Human egg freezing is relatively new. Frozen eggs are already known to remain viable for many months, and in the case of eggs from younger women, years. Frozen embryos are known to survive five (5) years or more and human sperm have been shown to remain viable and capable of producing healthy pregnancies for decades.
To speak to a patient liaison call 1-877-411-9292.