A woman’s ability to become pregnant is largely dependent on the quality of her eggs. By her mid-30s, her chances of achieving pregnancy decrease, while the rates of miscarriage and genetic abnormalities rise. Egg freezing is an option to help women extend their fertility and relieve some of the stress of the proverbial “biological clock.”
Generally speaking, the sooner you do, it the better quality eggs you will be saving for later. While there are no guarantees, frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely and used at any time in the future to achieve a pregnancy. Your frozen eggs can give you peace of mind that you can attempt to achieve a pregnancy when the time is right for you.
An egg freezing cycle is similar to IVF in that you undergo Stages 1 & 2 of the IVF process.
Every egg develops within a sac of fluid called a follicle, and hormonal stimulation of the ovaries results in the development of several follicles. We carefully monitor this process, using blood tests to measure hormone levels and pelvic ultrasound examinations of the ovaries to assess the maturation of the growing follicle, and then adjust the dosage of medications as necessary.
When the ovarian follicles are large, indicating that the eggs contained are near optimal maturity, you will be instructed to administer an injection of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG). This “trigger shot” activates the final maturation of the eggs.
Egg retrieval occurs approximately 36 hours after the hCG injection. Using ultrasound guidance to help us identify the follicles containing the eggs, the doctor inserts a thin needle through the vaginal wall and guides it into the follicles, gently removing the mature egg.
Egg retrieval is done here at the Fertility Institute in our procedure room, usually with the patient under conscious sedation or light anesthesia. The entire procedure takes approximately 15 minutes. The patient does not feel or remember anything, and is able to breathe comfortably on her own during the procedure.
This is where the process diverges from an IVF cycle. During IVF, the eggs would be combined with sperm resulting in the creation of embryos. But with egg freezing, the eggs are prepared and frozen using a process called vitrification, which is a state-of-the-art ultra-rapid freezing process. Eggs frozen using vitrification technique have high rates of survival, fertilization, and embryonic development. The eggs can be stored indefinitely here at the Fertility Institute, or transferred to a specialized storage facility if the patient desires.
Using your Frozen Eggs
When you decide the time is right to attempt a pregnancy, the eggs are thawed and the final 2 stages of the IVF process are completed.
As the eggs are thawed, they are placed in a special culture medium in the lab. Several hours later, the eggs are inseminated with sperm either from the male partner of the patient or from a screened donor chosen by the patient(s).
In vitro culture of the early embryos is performed under continuous and carefully controlled conditions in the Fertility Institute of NJ & NY’s embryology laboratory. Successful fertilization of the eggs can be seen under a high-powered microscope on the day following egg thawing and fertilization.
The embryo transfer itself is painless and does not involve any needles or sharp instruments. The embryo (or embryos) is loaded into a long, thin, soft tube called a catheter, which is then threaded through the natural opening of the woman’s cervix and guided to a spot near the top of her uterus, all monitored via ultrasound. Once the soft tip of the catheter reaches its intended destination, the embryo (or embryos) is gently deposited in the appropriate location.
The embryo transfer procedure is performed here at the Fertility Institute in our procedure room and takes approximately 10 minutes.