What is Egg Freezing?

The dream of motherhood is not always immediately possible for all women. Some may need to postpone this dream for several reasons, whether social, health-related, or financial. However, with significant scientific and medical advancements, it's now possible to delay this dream successfully through egg-freezing technology. This article will delve into this technique and its significance.

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Omooma
Published on:Oct 13th 2023 |Updated on:Feb 10th 2024
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Women's Fertility

A female newborn is born with approximately half a million immature eggs, which remain that way until puberty. The production of eggs continues monthly until menopause. It's essential to note that women are most fertile in their early twenties and mid-thirties. After age 35, the egg reserve declines in quantity and quality.

Postponing the Dream

Some women might not be able to marry or even conceive during their peak fertility years. Hence, many women, especially those trying to create post 35, resort to different fertility treatments. Some of these treatments involve using frozen eggs retrieved from the woman when she was younger.

Delaying Motherhood

With the changing times, our societies have also undergone numerous shifts. Among the most prominent changes are the delay in marriage and childbearing. The primary reasons for this include:

  • Young people delay marriage.
  • Women postpone marriage due to education, work, or not finding the right partner.
  • Couples delay conceiving for financial, educational, occupational, or health reasons.
  • Delay in childbearing due to undergoing cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Health issues that might lead to infertility.

When Can Eggs Be Frozen?

Eggs can be frozen at any stage during a woman's reproductive years, but certain times might be more appropriate than others, depending on the woman's situation. The most crucial periods include:

When a woman is in her mid-twenties to early thirties

During this phase, egg quality is at its peak, and there's a higher likelihood of retrieving a more significant number of eggs in a single cycle.

Before treatments that impact fertility

If a woman is about to undergo medical treatments that could harm her fertility (like chemotherapy or radiation for cancer), she might choose to freeze her eggs beforehand.

Before surgeries that involve the removal of an ovary or a part of it

Sometimes, a woman might require surgery that affects the ovaries' natural function. In such instances, she might freeze her eggs before the procedure.

If there are concerns about early egg depletion

Egg freezing might be a good option for women with a family history of early ovarian decline.

Procedure

Egg freezing is a meticulous technical procedure that involves several carefully executed steps to ensure the preservation and quality of the eggs for future use. Here are the main steps involved:

Initial Evaluation

Before beginning the process, the woman undergoes tests to evaluate the quality and number of her eggs and the health of her ovaries. Hormonal tests may also be carried out to assess ovarian function.

Ovarian Stimulation

If the initial evaluation determines the procedure is feasible, the fertility specialist will prescribe ovarian stimulation medications to increase egg production. This usually takes place over 8-14 days. During this time, the growth of the eggs is monitored through ultrasound imaging and hormonal tests.

Egg Retrieval

Once the eggs reach the appropriate size, a date is set for retrieval. The eggs are extracted using a needle inserted through the vagina under ultrasound guidance. This is typically done under local or general anesthesia. It's worth noting that in some fertility centers, the eggs might be retrieved from the abdomen rather than through the vagina for unmarried women.

Freezing the Eggs

After extraction, the eggs are placed in a particular culture medium briefly before the freezing stage. Accelerated freezing is used to freeze the eggs effectively and safely.

Storing the Eggs

Following freezing, the eggs are stored in special storage containers at extremely low temperatures until they are needed in the future. When a woman decides to use the frozen eggs to become pregnant, they are thawed and fertilized with sperm. Subsequently, the resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus.

Side Effects and Concerns Associated with Egg Freezing

Like any medical procedure, egg freezing has various side effects and potential risks. Some of the most prominent include:

Side Effects of Ovarian Stimulation Medications

  • Bloating or pain in the area surrounding the ovaries.
  • Redness or pain at the injection site.
  • Symptoms like pre-menstrual symptoms include mood swings, headaches, and swollen and sensitive breasts.
  • Simple cysts may develop on the ovaries but often resolve independently.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

  • In rare cases, the ovaries may overreact to the drugs, leading to significant swelling and fluid-filled cysts.
  • Symptoms might include severe bloating, pain, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and rapid weight gain.
  • This syndrome can be severe and requires medical attention.

Side Effects of Egg Retrieval

  • Pain or swelling in the vagina or surrounding area.
  • Mild bleeding or discharge from the injection site.
  • Rarely, there might be inflammation or injury to the ovaries or surrounding areas.

Emotional and Mental Strain

For some women, psychological stress is associated with the decision to freeze eggs, especially given the uncertainties about future success rates.

Financial Burden

The procedure can be expensive, and not all costs might be covered by health insurance.

What are the success rates for pregnancies using frozen eggs?

The success rate of pregnancies using frozen eggs depends on several factors. One of the primary factors is the woman's age when the eggs are frozen. Generally, the younger the eggs when freezing, the higher the chances of a successful pregnancy. Success rates typically range from 30% to 60%.

 

Check out What is the effect of smoking on male fertility?

 

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OmoomaOmooma | First Online Arabic Motherhood Training Platform

Omooma is the first Online platform offering classes in Arabic dedicated to mothers and mothers-to-be. In addition to content covering many relevant topics, women’s health, pregnancy, fertility, child’s health, and parenting. Omooma’s articles are written by medical writers, based on extensive research, and reviewed by a panel of experts who are part of the largest team of experts available in the region in all fields related to the journey of motherhood.

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