From time immemorial, women have had to face the anxiety and fear of missing out on motherhood unless they conceive early. As more women have started focusing on building their own career and identity, the dream of a successful life has come in conflict with the dream of motherhood. But egg freezing now offers a solution that can safeguard a woman’s fertility while she chases her other aspirations and builds a life for herself. It can allow her biology to match with the timeline of her life without the constant worry of having to settle quickly or to conceive without being ready.
What is egg freezing and how does it work?
Egg freezing or mature oocyte cryopreservation is a procedure that tries to preserve reproductive potential in women by harvesting eggs from their ovaries, and freezing and storing the unfertilized eggs for the future.
If a woman wishes to preserve her eggs for later use, she has to first undergo an ovarian reserve assessment in a fertility clinic. She has to take blood tests for antimüllerian hormone (AMH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels followed by an ultrasound to check the antral follicle count (AFC). After this, the fertility doctor can determine how many eggs can be retrieved in one cycle of controlled ovarian stimulation. Gonadotropin injections are prescribed which are also used in in-vitro fertilization. The maturation process is triggered and accelerated by an LH surge and once the eggs are fully mature, healthy eggs are retrieved. The embryologist then prepares the mature eggs for freezing.
Benefits of egg freezing
- Presently, egg freezing is one of the best ways to prolong the fertility of women to a period similar to men. While men remain fertile till 55 or sometimes longer, women are only born with a limited number of eggs which sharply diminish after the late 30s.
- It allows single women to wait for the right partner to start a family with and avoid ‘fertility anxiety’ as they get older.
- Following ASMR’s declaration in 2012 that egg freezing is no longer in the experimental phase, the procedure has gained considerable attention. A number of large companies including Apple and Facebook now offer social egg freezing facilities to help female employees who wish to have a child later in life and want to pursue their jobs uninterrupted.
- It is a great option for women with medical illnesses like cancer or endometriosis. Those who are about to undergo chemotherapy or have to go through some major surgery that may affect their fertility can still experience motherhood with the help of egg freezing.
- More and more women are opting for delayed pregnancies without realizing the risks of advanced reproductive age. Egg freezing can help increase the chances of healthy late pregnancies and prepare for future infertility issues.
Egg Freezing Success Rates:
- According to a review by Canadian Fertility Andrology Society of 3610 donor egg warming procedures of donors mostly in their 20s, the rate of survival of vitrified eggs was 90.4 percent. The oocyte-to-successful childbirth rate was 6.5 percent.
- Two studies in 2016 published in Fertility and Sterility assessed large numbers of elective egg freezing cycles. In the first study conducted by Cobo and colleagues, the overall rate of egg survival was 85.2%.
- The average live birth rate was 60.5% for women who were 35 years or younger and 29.7% for older women.
The second study, by Doyle and colleagues, found that the overall live birth rate of autologous frozen eggs and of fresh eggs in IVF cycles was reassuringly similar (39% versus 35%).
The statistics suggest that egg freezing is a good idea particularly for women younger than 36 as a measure to safeguard their fertility. However, it should not be treated as a foolproof safety net since it cannot guarantee a successful pregnancy. The egg freezing benefits are considerable. So, if you are planning to conceive later in life and want to preserve your reproductive potential, consult our fertility experts at Manipal Fertility. They can assess your situation, provide support and advice, and guide you through your fertility journey.