Egg freezing becomes popular for women who want to save their eggs for future use. But how safe and effective is the procedure?
Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte self-preservation, is a method used to ensure a woman's ability to get pregnant in the future. Through modern medicine, a woman's unfertilized eggs are frozen and stored for later use.
Some women undergo egg freezing for various reasons. For example, women who have illnesses that affect their fertility, such as sickle cell anemia and lupus, consider the method. Same as to those who are undergoing treatments for cancer like radiation and chemotherapy. Young women, on the other hand, want to preserve their egg cells for the future.
A study conducted in the Netherlands showed that women had different viewpoints regarding egg freezing. The majority of the participants expressed that they must be cautious about egg freezing technology. Others expressed their sentiments that they have the freedom to do what they want with their bodies.
Egg Freezing Procedures
Egg freezing has three procedures: ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, and freezing.
The doctor prescribes synthetic hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Naturally, a woman develops a single egg monthly. But in egg freezing, multiple eggs are required to have a higher chance of pregnancy. The medications that are prescribed are for ovarian stimulation and the prevention of premature ovulation.
A blood test is conducted to measure the response of the body to the ovarian-stimulation medications. Also, a vaginal ultrasound is performed to check the development of the follicles. If the follicles are ready for egg retrieval, the doctor will inject a human chorionic gonadotropin or other medicines that will mature the eggs.
The patient is under sedation during the egg retrieval. An ultrasound probe will be inserted into the vagina to identify the follicles. Then a needle with a suction device will be guided to the follicles to remove the eggs.
After the procedure, the patient will experience cramping and a feeling of fullness or pressure. It will continue for weeks due to the enlargement of the ovaries caused by the procedure. After a week from the egg retrieval, everyday activities can continue.
After the eggs had been retrieved, they will be frozen to a subzero temperature. A process called vitrification will also be done to prevent ice crystals from forming chewing the freezing procedure.
If a patient wants to use the eggs for pregnancy, they will be thawed and fertilized with sperm in a lab. A fertilized egg will be implanted into the patient's uterus or a gestational carrier through in vitro fertilization.
Advantages of Egg Freezing
Protects the quality of the egg
The quality of the egg lowers as a woman gets older.
One of the promises claimed by egg freezing is its ability to protect the quality of the eggs. As a woman grows older, the quality of the eggs becomes lower. A poor egg may lead to miscarriage or chromosomal abnormalities.
Gives time to find the right partner
Women are given more time to look for a suitable partner through egg freezing.
By stopping their biological clock through egg freezing, women are given more time to look for an ideal partner. They also don't feel pressured when choosing someone they want to live with and to have a child with.
Delays childbearing to pursue an educational, professional, or personal goal
Women can pursue their career without worrying in their future pregnancy.
Although egg freezing is discouraged by doctors for educational, professional, and personal purposes, some women undergo this method to pursue their careers without worrying about their pregnancy in the future.
Disadvantages of Egg Freezing
It is not risk-free.
The procedure has potential risks such as the ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
The use of injectable fertility drugs can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. It involves fatigue, nausea, headaches, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, and irritability. There is also a danger of experiencing severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, accompanied by blood clots, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, dehydration, and vomiting.
Though rare, the aspirating needle used to retrieve the eggs may also lead to bleeding, infection, or damage to the bowel, bladder, or blood vessel.
It is costly.
The procedure can be costly without the help of insurance.
The expenses on egg freezing, without the help of any insurance, may reach $7,500 to $12,500 for every egg-freezing cycle. The expenditures on medication may also amount between $2,800 to $5,000. The storage for eggs is paid for $800 per year.
No guarantee of success
The success rate of the procedure is also hard to determine.
The success rate of the procedure is also hard to determine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) have no mechanisms to track the procedure's success rate.
The older the patient is to freeze the egg, the slimmer chance that it will succeed. Some doctors also encourage egg freezing for those who need to delay childbirth because of cancer diagnosis or a family history of early menopause but not for those who want to postpone pregnancy for personal agenda.
Rebecca Flyckt, Director of the Fertility Preservation Program at Cleveland Clinic, also reminded that women must be careful in remembering that it is just a frozen tissue and not a guarantee of a baby.
Thorough research is advised before considering egg-freezing due to some of its risks and its success rate. Analyzing its advantages and disadvantages will lead to careful and prudent decisions.
Dr. Yaron Seidman DAOM