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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Sometimes, a woman might require surgery that affects the ovaries' natural function. In such instances, she might freeze her eggs before the procedure.
Egg freezing might be a good option for women with a family history of early ovarian decline.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like any medical procedure, egg freezing has various side effects and potential risks. Some of the most prominent include:
For some women, psychological stress is associated with the decision to freeze eggs, especially given the uncertainties about future success rates.
The procedure can be expensive, and not all costs might be covered by health insurance.
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%.