egg freezing is a form of fertility treatment through the cryopreservation of unfertilized eggs. medications are prescribed to stimulate the ovaries to mature multiple eggs at once that can then be retrieved and frozen.
we store all of our eggs, embryos, and sperm in tanks full of liquid nitrogen. egg freezing has quickly become a popular treatment for those looking to buy time to start a family. in 2009, 479 people froze their eggs. by 2018, that number had jumped to 13,275. egg or oocyte cryopreservation has improved dramatically, with a larger number of eggs surviving the freezing process every year.
there are many reasons why you might choose to have your eggs frozen, such as:
when you are ready to use those frozen eggs to achieve a pregnancy, they will be placed in a warming solution. the embryologist will observe the eggs and see which ones survive the thawing process. the eggs that survive are fertilized with sperm through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (icsi). one sperm is injected directly into the egg, and the fertilized eggs will grow in culture until the mature embryo is ready to be transferred into the uterus to achieve a pregnancy, 5-6 days after fertilization.
the first step to freeze your eggs will be a consultation with your mate doctor. on the third day of your period, we will perform blood work to determine your ovarian reserve and conduct a vaginal ultrasound to see what your abdominal, pelvic and reproductive organ look like. these results will determine your personalized treatment plan, but all patients coming through the mate doors will start with a fertility assessment.
next we have to stimulate your ovaries to produce as many eggs as possible. you will give yourself hormone injections to encourage egg production. during this process, you will have to be monitored closely with regular bloodwork and ultrasounds. this will help us determine if your dosage needs to be adjusted. once your eggs have matured fully, you will give yourself a trigger shot that activates ovulation, or the release of eggs. 36 hours after the trigger shot, you will come into the clinic for your egg retrieval procedure. during this time you’re encouraged not to work out, and avoid drinking alcohol, caffeine, consuming supplements, or taking certain medications.
approximately 36 hours after the trigger shot we will retrieve your eggs in a minor surgical procedure done in the office. you will be under conscious sedation and your doctor will place a small needle through your vaginal wall into the follicles, with direction from an ultrasound. the doctor will the retrieve as many eggs as possible. those eggs will go directly into the embryology lab and your embryologist will let us know how many mature eggs we recovered. you may return back to normal activities 24-48 hours after your retrieval.
after we have retrieved as many eggs as possible, all your mature eggs will be rapidly frozen in a process called vitrification. we will store these eggs in our cryo chambers until you’re ready to use them. we will let you know exactly how many healthy eggs have been frozen. it’s important to know that the cellular makeup of an unfertilized egg makes it a bit more difficult to freeze and lead to a successful pregnancy than the makeup of a fertilized egg (embryo). this entire process usually takes 2-3 weeks. when you want to use your frozen eggs, they’ll be thawed, fertilized with sperm in the lab, and implanted in your or a gestational surrogate’s uterus.
egg freezing and embryo banking are both forms of fertility preservation through cryofreezing. embryo banking is becoming a more frequent choice, particularly for young couples just starting their careers. egg freezing is the process of cryopreserving unfertilized eggs while embryo banking is cryopreserving already fertilized eggs. some patients choose for a combination of both egg and embryo banking. the egg and embryo banking processes start like the traditional ivf process. medications are prescribed to stimulate the ovaries to mature multiple eggs at once that can then be retrieved and frozen. in women who have cancer, ovarian stimulation protocols are tailored to each patient’s medical needs.
your doctor will use an ultrasound to identify where your egg clusters are. by now you’ve been on ivf medications for 8-10 days so you should have plenty of eggs. your doctor will use a needle attached to a catheter to gently pierce the vaginal wall. the eggs will be removed 1 by 1 with light suction. your eggs will be collected tubes that are labeled with your name and unique identification number. the eggs will then be transferred to the adjoining embryologist. your doctor will then examine your vaginal wall and ovaries. you may bleed a little and some instances the doctor may cauterize the area. no stitches involved.
before a man’s sperm can fertilize a woman’s egg, the head of the sperm must attach to the outside of the egg. once attached, the sperm pushes through the outer layer to the inside of the egg (cytoplasm), where fertilization takes place.
sometimes the sperm cannot penetrate the outer layer, for a variety of reasons. the egg’s outer layer may be thick or hard to penetrate or the sperm may be unable to swim. in these cases, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (icsi) can be done along with in vitro fertilization (ivf) to help fertilize the egg. during icsi, a single sperm is injected directly into the cytoplasm of the egg.