Oocyte or egg freezing is also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation. This is a modern fertility procedure intended to protect a woman's fertility in the future. Unfertilized eggs are extracted from a woman's ovaries, frozen, and stored for later use. The goal of this operation is to thaw those frozen eggs later, combine them with sperm in a fertility clinic laboratory, and implant them in the woman's uterus using an in vitro fertilization technique.
Why is the Oocyte freezing procedure performed?
Oocyte freezing is an excellent choice for women who are not yet ready to become pregnant but want to assure that they will be able to do so in the future.
A woman must take fertility medications in case of oocyte freezing, for inducing ovulation which will cause them to generate multiple ovum or eggs that can be harvested. A woman might consider oocyte freezing if:
• They are suffering from medical conditions or have a particular scenario, that may impair their fertility. These might include gender diversity, such as being transgender, having sickle cell anemia, or autoimmune disorders like lupus.
• They require medical attention for cancer or other health severe conditions that may interfere with their ability to conceive in the future. For example, the fertility of a woman can be affected by a few medical procedures, including chemotherapy and radiation.
• They are undergoing the process of in vitro fertilization. Some people choose egg freezing over embryo freezing when undergoing in vitro fertilization for religious values or moral reasons.
• They want to save their younger eggs right now for later usage. When a woman is ready to get pregnant at an older age, freezing her eggs at an earlier age may help.
How is the Oocyte freezing procedure performed?
Oocyte freezing involves multiple steps, including ovarian stimulation, retrieval of eggs, and egg freezing.
- Ovarian stimulation:
Physicians prescribe synthetic hormones to women undergoing oocyte freezing procedures for stimulating their ovaries to produce multiple eggs, instead of a single egg which typically develops the monthly cycle. A few such medications are:
· Drugs to stimulate ovarian function
· Drugs to prevent premature ovulation
Physicians prescribe regular blood tests to measure their patient’s response to ovarian-stimulation drugs. Physicians also perform a vaginal ultrasound to monitor the development of the follicles where the eggs get developed. Then after 10-14 days, the follicles become ready for egg retrieval.
- Retrieval of Egg
Sedation is used during an egg retrieval procedure. Transvaginal ultrasound aspiration is a popular technique for this step that involves inserting an ultrasound probe into the vagina to locate the follicles. After that, a needle is inserted into the vagina and the eggs are taken out of the follicle using a suction device attached to the needle.
The unfertilized eggs are quickly frozen to below-freezing temperatures to preserve them for later use. The most popular method for freezing eggs is called vitrification.
What are the steps to prepare for the Oocyte freezing procedure?
When considering oocyte freezing a woman should look for a renowned fertility clinic where experts known as reproductive endocrinologists will help them throughout the entire procedure.
At the beginning of the oocyte freezing process, women are also prescribed various blood tests like ovarian reserve testing, infectious disease tests (HIV, hepatitis B, C), etc., for a better understanding of their health conditions.
Is there any risk associated with the Oocyte freezing procedure?
The risks are comparable to those associated with ovarian stimulation for IVF, which include minor risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome where ovaries get enlarged and sometimes fluids accumulate in the belly and pelvis region, infections, and bleeding during the egg retrieval operation.
Generally, a fresh egg from an older woman has a lower chance of fertilization than an egg that has been frozen for several years. When a woman decides to use her frozen eggs, they will be thawed, fertilized in a laboratory with sperm, and placed in the woman’s or a gestational carrier's uterus.
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Unlike embryo cryopreservation, also known as the freezing of fertilized eggs, oocyte freezing does not require sperm because the eggs are not fertilized before they are frozen.
One has to keep in mind that the success rate of this process depends on several factors, like the age of the women undergoing oocyte freezing.
Physicians suggest that for use after the age of 30, a woman should freeze her eggs in their mid to late 20s.
A woman who has a regular period can expect to start her next period 28–30 days after the start of her previous one, or at the same time as she would have during a typical cycle.
Egg freezing is an excellent option for any healthy woman who does not yet want to be a mother but still has at least a few healthy eggs.