21 Jun 5 Egg Freezing Facts
Is egg freezing looking like a potential player in your fertility plan? Originally created to preserve fertility options for women with cancer – or undergoing cancer treatments – that threatened female fertility, younger women are opting to freeze and bank their eggs as a way to put family building on hold until they are ready.
Did You Know…
Here are some facts worth learning – and knowing – as you look ahead to your own egg retrieval date.
1. Egg freezing means pushing “pause” on your current, predicted IVF success rate
If you’re considering IVF, odds are you’ve become familiar with the CDC and fertility treatment centers’ charts displaying IVF success rates. Outside of any known chromosomal or genetic factors, age is the leading determinant of your chances of IVF success because egg quality declines as maternal age advances.
So, if you freeze your eggs at age 23 or 28 or even 32, you’ll benefit from the same, higher IVF success rates in those age brackets. If you wait to freeze your eggs until you’re 38 or older, your IVF rates will be in the lower range. This is the same reason why women in their 40’s and upwards, who experience IVF cycle failures, increasingly opt to use donor eggs. Their chances of IVF success are the same as the age of the donor’s.
2. Egg freezing really means egg vitrification.
What we call “egg freezing” is really “egg vitrification.” While these terms are used interchangeably on the internet and fertility specialist websites, there are important technical differences in terms of how the processes take place and their effects on egg quality and viability.
During the 80’s and early 90’s, when fertility preservation was relatively new, the eggs really were frozen in a more traditional sense. Unfortunately, this slower freezing process often compromised the viability of the eggs. While they froze just fine, thawing ice crystals often punctured the egg’s membranes, rendering the egg unusable. Advancements in cryogenic technology led to vitrification processes. With vitrification, eggs are essentially flash frozen. Their water molecules freeze so rapidly, they don’t have the chance to crystallize, making them smoother and the membranes less apt to rupture when the eggs are thawed.
3. The more eggs the better
If you choose to freeze your eggs, you’ll use injectable fertility medications to optimize the number of eggs we can retrieve. Our goal is to retrieve at least 15 to 20 mature eggs. Even the healthiest woman, free of any infertility factors, has eggs that are unviable. By retrieving a larger number of eggs, you have a better chance of optimizing the number of eggs that are successfully fertilized when you’re ready to start your family.
4. Eggs can remain frozen indefinitely – but 10 years or less is ideal
Since vitrified eggs are stored in liquefied nitrogen, they can be frozen indefinitely. Fertility preservation is still a relatively new medical technology (since the late 1980’s), we’re still in the “research” phases when it comes to determining how long eggs remain viable via the vitrification and thawing processes. While theory says, “forever,” we recommend striking a cautionary balance. For optimal IVF success rates, we suggest storing frozen eggs for 10 years or less whenever possible.
5. You should always consult with a fertility specialist before making decisions
Deciding to freeze your eggs is not a decision you should make on your own. Schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist to ensure you have accurate information and for the opportunity to have all of your questions answered.
There are a variety of factors to consider, including whether the time and money involved for egg retrieval and storage make sense for your future family building plans. A fertility specialist will evaluate your age, medical history, reproductive history, and may even recommend certain fertility tests before making any recommendations one way or the other.
Are you considering egg freezing as part of your future fertility plan? Contact us here at the Virginia Fertility & IVF to schedule your consultation.