Freezing Fertility For The Future

As the cultural landscape has changed, many women are deciding to have children later in life. Of course the main problem that comes along with this lifestyle choice is the very real possibility that when a woman is ready to have kids she won’t biologically be able to conceive. This is due to the fact most women lose much of their fertility in their late 30s or early 40s. While there aren’t many ways around this fact of nature, the options that are available have proven to be effective. One such option more and more women are choosing is egg freezing.

Egg freezing is the process of harvesting a woman’s healthy eggs before they become degraded with age and then freezing them for later use. This process has proven effective for women with fertility issues because science has proven that, for those trying to conceive, the age of the body is not as important as the age of the egg. But because this process is relatively new, many don’t know much about it. Here are some basic facts about egg freezing.

The Process –
Those who are considering egg freezing will need to visit an embryologist for an initial consultation. During this appointment medical history will be taken and fertility will be tested via blood draw. This blood test can accurately measure hormone levels, particularly Inhibin B, which is produced by the ovaries and controls fertility.

The patient is then put on a ten-day cycle of in-vitro (IVF) drugs. These drugs function to induce ovaries to produce egg-generating follicles. Once follicles reach approximately 1.5 millimeters, a hormone dose is administered to expedite the release of eggs. Using a needle, the embryologist will remove 10-12 eggs. These eggs are then stored in liquid nitrogen for a period up to 10 years. When the woman is ready, the egg is thawed, brought to the appropriate temperature and inserted into the uterus, resulting in pregnancy.

Health Risks –
Certain side effects have been reported by those on IVF drugs, such as shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting. Some patients have also experienced a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, which in some instances can lead to abdominal swelling. It is estimated that between one and two percent of those on IVF drugs have experienced at least one of the aforementioned side effects.

Some studies have suggested a possible link between IVF drugs and ovarian cancer but many medical regulating bodies, such as the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, note there is no proof to support these theories.

Success Rates –
Out of the thousands of babies that have been born worldwide from frozen eggs, all of them have been healthy. On the other hand, many fertility experts possess varying opinions on the chances of actual conception using frozen eggs. Some experts place the chances of successful conception at 30 percent while others are more optimistic and claim a 50 percent success rate. Success, it is generally agreed, depends on a number of factors, such as the woman’s age, how many eggs are initially harvested and how successfully the eggs are fertilized.

Breakthroughs –
For many years, egg freezing had a dismal success rate. This was due in large part to the egg’s tendency to develop ice crystals during the freezing process. Now the success rates of babies born from egg freezing have been bolstered by a number of breakthroughs in the field. Most notably, a new specimen culture system has been developed that protects eggs from damage during the freezing process. Also, a successful new fertilization technique called Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) has been pioneered in which a single healthy sperm is injected into the egg. It’s breakthroughs such as these that have made egg freezing the viable fertility option it is today.

With advances in medical science, women with fertility issues have more options than ever to conceive. Egg freezing and IVF fertilization are options that more and more women are turning to as new positive statistics come to light. And with new advances in medical science occurring all the time, the process of egg freezing is only going to become more viable down the line.

Aurora May writes for Family Cord on topics related to the use of cord blood, and the benefits of cord blood banking and cord blood.

Ana Fadich Tomsic

View posts by Ana Fadich Tomsic
Ana Fadich, MPH, CHES - Washington, D.C. - As Executive Vice President of Men's Health Network, acting in the capacity of chief operating officer, she oversees the execution of various programs and services related to outreach and health promotion, and the organization's various web platforms. She also supervises the organization’s international activities and relationships. MHN is a national non-profit, educational health organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of men and their families, where they live, work, play and pray. As a certified health educator (CHES), Ana develops targeted disease education materials & programs for men and their families on various health topics and leads discussions with participants at various community events in an effort to reduce health disparities that exist in underserved communities in the US.

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