Overview Of The Egg Freezing Process
Getting started with a cycle is as simple as contacting a FEBNetwork Expert. Our goal is to help women understand the quality nuances in oocyte cryopreservation and direct them to programs offering proven, high quality preservation techniques.
We encourage you not to delay in learning your options, since a woman’s chances of a successful outcome lower with each passing year.
Unless there is medical reason to consider freezing at a younger age, most women considering this option are between the ages of 30 and 40. The younger you are, the greater the likelihood that you’ll be successful in having a baby using your frozen eggs.
Here is what you can expect:
What you will discuss: This typically is a 60-90 minute visit.
Your age & medical history: Age matters, but it is never too late to gain knowledge and take control of your fertility potential.
There is no dependable way to test egg quality. We do know that as we age, so do our eggs.
Blood work is also done to check your hormone levels and test your ovarian reserve. They are testing your AMH, or Anti-Mullerian Hormone. AMH is a hormone produced by cells in your ovarian follicles; a higher AMH means a higher ovarian reserve. These tests may be done at your OBGYN or primary care doctor as well.
If you have had these tests done in the last 12 months bring the results with you. Once you have made the decision to begin your journey, the team at your doctor’s practice will help order your medications, teach you how to inject yourself and give you a projected start date!
Don’t worry, they will be with you every step of the way!
There are three different types of medication typically used in the freezing process.
The first hormone or combination of hormones is a follicle stimulation hormone. This medication injection typically ranges from 8-10 days. These injections are intended to stimulate your ovaries to maximize their potential by producing as many eggs as possible in one menstrual cycle.
The second medication is called the antagonist because this medication prevents you from ovulating early and releasing eggs before the retrieval. This medication is injected once daily beginning mid cycle.
Lastly, the “trigger” medication is injected two days before your retrieval to prep your body to release the eggs at the right time.
All three of these medications work together to prepare your body for the retrieval and timing is very important to help maximize your production potential for retrieval. Many of us do not like needles. Don’t fret as the staff is there to help if needed, or you could even ask a friend or family member to do your injections for you!
Once the results are in and you have received the go-ahead from your doctor, the journey begins!
You will start your medication regimen and monitoring plan. These monitoring appointments usually take under 30 minutes and include an ultrasound and blood work to determine how your body is responding to the medication. Based on these results adjustments might be made to customize your medication if need be. You might feel a little bloated during this time period because your body is preparing for retrieval and this is normal and will go away!
It is mandatory that someone comes with you and waits while the retrieval is taking place and is able to bring you home since you’ll be undergoing anesthesia. The anesthesia is administered intravenously and the anesthesiologist will put you in and induced sleep state to ensure that you are comfortable throughout the retrieval process.
You will feel some soreness and possibly some cramping, and spotting which could last for a couple of days.
It is recommended that you take the day of the retrieval off so that your body can rest and recover. Most women feel back to normal the following day. Most likely you’ll not need a follow up appointment and the team at your practice and your nurse will check in with you to make sure you are feeling ok!
Before you leave, you’ll learn how many eggs your doctor retrieved and were moved to the embryology lab. Within 24 hours, your doctor will let you know how many were suitable for freezing. Typically, it is 80-90% of those retrieved. This number varies for everyone.
In order to prevent ice crystals from forming, each one will be exposed to high levels of liquids known as cryoprotectants to prevent any damage. They will then be placed on a thin, straw-like stick which has been carefully labeled with your name and your personal identification number. Finally, they will be immersed into liquid nitrogen and stored with your personal identification number.
This process is known as vitrification and it is the best process scientists have found to preserve eggs without damaging them.
In the instance that your practice where the retrieval occurred does not have on site storage, your eggs will be transported using a specialized shipping storage to a long term storage facility. They can be stored indefinitely. One study reported that a woman used her own eggs, frozen as a teenager, to give birth 14 years later. There is no evidence that shows that their health or quality diminishes over time.